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10,000 doctors demand creation of medical reform committeeKMA warns of another rally, nationwide campaigns if its demands go unmet
  • By Choi Gwang-seok
  • Published 2018.05.21 20:48
  • Updated 2018.05.22 12:52
  • comments 0

More than 10,000 doctors rallied on the streets of Seoul to call for the immediate end of the so-called Moon Jae-in Care and a proper system for the lives of the critically ill.

Physicians warned that they would fight back with more force through nationwide campaigns if the government were to enforce the “Mooncare,” which is President Moon Jae-in’s policy of drastically expanding national health insurance coverage.

The Korean Medical Association (KMA) on Sunday staged an anti-Mooncare rally at Deoksugung in central Seoul and Cheong Wa Dae to call for the protection of the lives of critically ill patients at intensive care units (ICU).

Members of the Korean Medical Association protest Moon Jae-in Care at a rally held at Deoksugung in central Seoul Sunday.

Doctors gathered at one hour before the rally at 12 p.m. and shouted out phrases such as, “The Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service (HIRA)’s treatment guidelines cause poor medical care,” and “The healthcare system for citizens is crumbling due to populism.”

Participants continued shouting, “Reimbursing uncovered medical services will bust the health insurance budget,” “Guarantee treatment options for citizen’s health,” and “Citizen health crumbles due to forcefully-provided poor healthcare.”

Choi Dae-zip, president of the KMA, called for the government to show sincerity at negotiations between physicians and the government this Friday.

“We opened this rally to relay the doctors’ opinion to society, the National Assembly, and the government. We are calling for not reimbursing all unreimbursed medical care, abolishing the system of limited reimbursement, normalizing treatment costs, and reorganizing unreasonable examination systems” said Choi.

“If the government does not show sincerity in the meeting this Friday, we will stop negotiations immediately, take a hardline stance and fight against the government. We will show them just how angry the medical community is with the current administration,” he added. “We have accumulated an incredible amount of anger because of an improper health insurance system.”

Lee Chul-ho, chairman of the KMA’s board of representatives, expressed concern that Mooncare would lead to negative effects such as rising healthcare costs for citizens and limited medical care options.

“Forcing Mooncare, a unilateral treatment guide, into law deprives both doctors and patients the right to choose a treatment method,” Lee said. “This vicious cycle will result in collapse due to financial depletion and raise health insurance premiums to eventually hit the pockets of all citizens.”

“The gapjil of the NHIS (National Health and Insurance Service) and HIRA, which have long plagued doctors, will become even worse. Moon Jae-in Care will further deteriorate the relationship between the two agencies and medical institutions, which have already lost trust in them,” Lee added. Gapjil refers to the abuse of power by those wielding it.

Chairman of the Korean Pediatric Society Im Hyun-taek

Im Hyun-taek, chairman of the Korean Pediatric Society, strongly criticized the government’s attitude following the aftermath of the deaths of four neonatal infants at Ewha Womans University Medical Center.

“On this beautiful and sunny day, we doctors are still trapped in a dark, cold jail,” said Im. “Four fellow doctors who saved countless young lives and worked day and night to keep the neonatal intensive care unit going for decades have been arrested or detained for trial.”

Im went on to say, “The current government let medical staff of Ewha Womans University Medical Center to be portrayed as murderers to the public even when there was no clear cause of death or epidemiological investigation completed.” “They then forced them to stand trial. This is farthest thing from appropriate,” he added.

Im also presented a letter of objection submitted by a professor of pediatrics to the HIRA that wrote that the agency blocked the use of the central vein of infants around 20 weeks who weigh less than 1,000 grams.

“It is the HIRA, Health Insurance Policy Review Committee, and the health authorities who tell people to kill an infant because they think using treatment material worth a couple of dollars on infants at 26 weeks and 690 grams are a waste,” he said. “How can you call this a country?”

Doctors suggest ‘Medical Reform Committee’ for quickly ageing society

Amidst rallying cries, the KMA wrapped up the first session at around 3 p.m. and began marching towards the Blue House with the KMA and 16 of its regional branches raising their flags in the head of the procession.

Members of the KMA march towards the Blue House as part of the anti Mooncare rally held in central Seoul Sunday.

The KMA began the rally in front of the Blue House by presenting a protest letter to President Moon Jae-in.

“Normalizing the cost of necessary medical treatments and reinforcing reimbursed treatments instead of covering all uncovered treatments are most urgently needed,” they said.

Opposing reimbursement of all uncovered medical care services as promised under Mooncare, the association suggested creating a “medical reform committee” for citizens that live in an era where their life expectancy could become 100 years.

According to the suggestion, the Blue House would play a central role in creating the committee that works to maximize citizen’s right to health and rectify the ills of the current medical system. This would lead to joint discussions between the medical community, government, and political circles.

“We hope that the President could talk to and discuss directly with doctors working at ICUs, severe trauma centers, emergency room, obstetrics and gynecology clinics, and first-tier local medical institutions,” the KMA said.

“Please listen to the opinions of expert groups so Mooncare can be remembered later as an example of success that improved the health of citizens,” it added.

President of the Korean Medical Association Choi Dae-zip

KMA President Choi warned of a more intense struggle between the physicians and the government through nationwide anti-Mooncare campaigns and three more rallies if demands of the medical community are not met.

"On December 10, 2017, 30,000 doctors gathered at the first rally to express their determination. Today more doctors are expressing their opinions,” Choi said. “The government, Blue House, and society will not be able to handle the third rally that will take place at Cheong Wa Dae if our demands are not met.”

“The government and the Blue House should cease to be stubborn and accept the rational and reasonable demands of doctors. If not, we have no choice but to go out on anti-Mooncare demonstrations with the public,” Choi added.

“The Blue House will come to know what will happen once this campaign expands to encompass all citizens, not just the medical community. Don’t listen to our demands with one ear and let it go out the other,” he warned.

Participants rallied in front of the Blue House for about 30 minutes and then marched to Gwanghwamun plaza, ending the rally at around 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Welfare urged medical doctors to sincerely engage in multi-faceted dialogue between the physicians and the government for the sake of critically ill patients.

“The government thinks the same thing as doctors regarding the importance of critically ill patients’ lives but you can’t protect their lives through anti-Mooncare protests. Coverage of health insurance should be further strengthened to protect ICU patients’ lives,” the ministry said.

“If the KMA is sincerely concerned of the lives of critically ill patients, then it should negotiate with the government regarding strengthening health insurance guarantee and the appropriate medical service cost,” it added.

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