+ A

Jeju hospital license pulled as deadline is missed

Apr 18,2019
The Jeju provincial government canceled the business license of the country’s first private medical center.

It said that the owner, China’s Greenland Group, had failed to meet the deadline for opening.

“We have not been given a proper reason why the hospital’s operations have been delayed since it received conditional approval from us,” said Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong.

According to the Medical Service Act of Korea, a medical institution needs to begin operations within 90 days of receiving a business license. The Jeju government granted conditional approval to the Greenland International Medical Center on Dec. 5.

It was to be Korea’s first for-profit hospital.

The Greenland Group, a Shanghai-based real estate developer, strongly opposed the conditions of the approval, as the hospital would only be allowed to treat foreigners. The group filed a lawsuit with the Jeju District Court on Feb. 14 in hopes of getting the ban on treating Korean patients lifted.

The Chinese group also requested an extension of the March 4 deadline.

The Jeju government stood firm and refused to adjust the deadline or lift the ban on treating local patients. Greenland said it would pull together a legal team to take on the case and continues to threaten legal action.

During the conflict, no progress was made on the medical center.

The hospital had hired 134 medical workers, including nine doctors, 28 nurses, 10 nursing assistants and 18 international coordinators, as of August 2017, when it applied for provincial government approval.

All of the nine doctors - in change of the plastic surgery, dermatology, internal medicine and family medicine departments - quit as the opening was delayed for more than a year.

The Chinese medical center failed to provide evidence that it was actively making efforts to staff the facility, Won said.

The Wednesday decision seems to bring an end to the 16-year-long controversy over the proposed introduction of investor-owned medical facilities.

Korea introduced free zones in 2002 that allowed foreign capital to open for-profit hospitals for non-Koreans. They were in designated areas, such as Incheon and Jeju Island. But no foreign investor had stepped up to establish a for-profit hospital until the Greenland Group applied in 2015.

The Moon Jae-in administration has no plans to authorize additional for-profit hospitals.

“The for-profit hospital was a one-off authorization under the autonomy of the Jeju provincial government. The authorizer was the governor of the island,” said Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo in a meeting held December last year. “The current administration will never pursue any more for-profit hospitals.”


BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]