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Doctors group opposes government’s 4 major healthcare policies
  • By Choi Gwang-seok
  • Published 2020.07.07 11:55
  • Updated 2020.07.07 16:44
  • comments 0

Choi Dae-zip, president of the Korean Medical Association, called the government’s four healthcare policies “evil" and refused to talk with the authorities.

The government has been pushing to introduce telemedicine, run a pilot project to allow the national health insurance benefit for traditional herbal medicine, establish a state-run medical school, and increase the annual quota for medical school admissions.

At an online press conference on the Covid-19 crisis and latest healthcare issues on Monday, Choi said the government has never discussed with the medical community to introduce remote medical care. “When the government pushes its policy without any consultation with us, we can’t tell them first to have discussions,” Choi said.

He said telemedicine was not an issue that can be negotiated in a short time, adding that the medical group would do everything to block it. “Telemedicine will be in the hands of doctors. If doctors do not want it, the government should not introduce it,” Choi emphasized.

Korean Medical Association President Choi Dae-zip (left), KMA Spokesperson Park Jong-hyuk, and KMA Public Relations Director Kim Dae-ha hold an online press conference on Monday. (Source: KMA TV)

Also, the government has not talked with the KMA over the issue of increasing the number of physicians or establishing a state-run medical school either, Choi said. The KMA has never given a positive opinion on allowing traditional herbal medicine reimbursable. It was the Ministry of Health and Welfare that blocked the KMA from participating in a related council, he said.

Choi concluded that the KMA did not have any reason to negotiate with the government over the four healthcare policies.

“As doctors are risking their lives to fight Covid-19, they have no other option but to protect their rights,” he said.

If the government still insists on going ahead with its four healthcare policies that are intolerable to physicians, the medical group would fight against the government at a “very heightened level,” Choi warned.

To prevent traditional herbal medicines from getting insurance benefits, the KMA would submit documents pointing to various problems of the policy to the health authorities and block the passage of a related revision bill at the National Assembly.

Choi also criticized the government for worsening the Covid-19 situation.

It is more important to keep general patient care stable than to give compensations to medical institutions. The nation needs a strategy to reduce deaths of Covid-19 patients and general patients, he went on to say. “We have spoken about this issue to the health and welfare ministry for two or three months,” Choi said.

All the health and welfare ministry did was hold a daily briefing to announce the number of confirmed cases and deaths and say sorry, he said. “Doctors who have to take care of Covid-19 patients and general patients are still suffering many problems,” Choi said.

In Seoul, in particular, there was no intensive care unit available for critically ill Covid-19 patients, he said.

Choi emphasized that the government should not create unnecessary problems but focus on admitting Covid-19 patients as needed and saving lives. He worried that if the government keeps doing what it has been doing, confirmed cases may surge, leading to hundreds of physicians’ deaths.

Expressing grave concern about Covid-19 cluster infections in the Seoul metropolitan area and some provinces, Choi recommended regularly conducting sample antibody tests by region. He also recommended a stronger social distancing, school closures, triaging patients according to the severity of the disease, establishing a private-public cooperation control tower to distribute treatment resources equitably, and streamlining the criteria for closing medical institutions to preserve the patient care system for those with diseases other than Covid-19.

The KMA also demanded the government set up detailed living guidelines for those whose quarantines were lifted.


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