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Gov. and ruling party must find ways to quell conflicts over Nursing Bill

Gov. and ruling party must find ways to quell conflicts over Nursing Bill

Posted May. 17, 2023 07:54,   

Updated May. 17, 2023 07:54


South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol exercised his veto power over the nursing bill passed by the opposition Democratic Party in the National Assembly yesterday. This is the second time that President Yoon has used his veto power since the revision of the grain management law under the current administration. President Yoon said, “the nursing bill has caused excessive conflict between professional domains” and that “the conflict was not resolved even through the negotiations and deliberation process of the National Assembly.” The Korean nursing association, which opposes the exercise of the veto, is expected to take collective action, and the tensions surrounding the nursing bill are likely to escalate.

Separating nursing law from the medical law was a long-standing initiative of the nursing industry. However, other healthcare workers such as nursing assistants protested, questioning why only nurses are being treated under a separate law. The nursing industry claims that the establishment of the nursing law prevents solo practice, but other professionals such as doctors claim that it is only a matter of time before nurse invade their area of work. The government and the ruling party suggested the removal of the “local community and medical institution” clause as a last-minute compromise proposal, but negotiations ultimately failed due to opposition from the Democratic Party and the nursing association. The conflict in the medical field surrounding the nursing bill has resulted in a split of different factions.

It was the dedication, sacrifice, and efforts of medical personnel such as doctors and nurses that enabled us to tackle the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. Against this backdrop of escalating conflicts and schisms among medical professionals, public anxiety is swelling for fear of a massive medical crisis.

To make matters worse, politicians who should play the role of mediators in resolving conflicts have instead exacerbated the situation. The opposition Democratic Party, which has a majority of seats, showed off its power by unilaterally dealing with the nursing bill, even pushing it to a plenary session. The ruling People Power Party was more bent on bashing the Democratic Party rather than engaging in active negotiations. Both parties only engaged in brinkmanship when it was clear that the president would exercise his veto should the nursing bill be railroaded by the opposition party. Critics say both parties neglected serious efforts to compromise, only mindful of the votes to win from medical professionals in the general elections next year.

If the nursing law is put to a re-vote in the National Assembly, it is highly likely that it will be discarded as a two-third presence is difficult to achieve. The vicious circle of re-votes and rejections following the presidential veto, as in the case of the grain management law, should never be repeated. To that end, the government and the ruling party, being responsible for national governance, should not simply blame the opposition party and nursing industry, but choose to actively find ways to resolve the conflicts and reach a compromise on a broader cause. As a presidential candidate, President Yoon visited the nursing association during his presidential election campaign, and though it was not an official pledge, he promised to “make an effort to persuade lawmakers to reach a reasonable conclusion” for the establishment of the nursing law then; therefore, he should engage in more sincere dialogues with detailed explanations to help ease the conflicts.