The Korean Medical Association, which boasts some 90-thousand doctors as its members, says it will go on a general strike starting March 3rd,. unless the government changes plans to establish for-profit hospitals and telemedicine services.
"The association opposes the government's drive towards telemedicine and for-profit hospitals, and demands a fundamental reform of the nation's health insurance system."
However the doctors' association is open to dialogue.
"Depending on the negotiations with the government, the strike could be delayed, according to an emergency planning committee."
The Health Ministry has also shown a willingness to start talks with the association.
"The government respects the medical association's decision to defer the general strike and engage in dialogue through a consultative group. The government will enter talks with an open mind."
The situation was sparked when the government put ads in newspapers last week, promoting the advantages of telemedicine services and for-profit hospitals.
The medical association has been strongly opposed to both, saying they will impair the quality of medical services for citizens.
In its statement, the doctors' association said the telemedicine program has never been fully tested in Korea, and it is not yet a reliable way to make a diagnosis.
The medical association also said the government is misleading citizens, disguising the establishment of for-profit hospitals, as if it is an investment measure for mid-sized hospitals, when it is actually aiming to establish for-profit hospitals.
In response, the health ministry said, the teleconsultations are mostly aimed at low-risks patients and those who live in remote areas, where visiting doctors is not easy.
The government also said the for-profit hospitals will be allowed to run additional projects like attracting patients from other countries, which will not affect the public nature of the medical service in Korea.
The government has been pushing for the establishment of both, along with other deregulating measures, as a means to expand the nation's medical industry.
Park Ji-won, Arirang News.