Chinese-owned for-profit hospital says to fold following license annulment

JEJU, South Korea, A Chinese-owned medical center that is South Korea's first for-profit hospital expressed its intention Monday to fold following the Jeju provincial government's annulment of its business license earlier this month.

The Greenland International Medical Center on the southern resort island of Jeju, owned by the Shanghai-based Greenland Group, on Friday sent mail to its 50 employees notifying them of its plan to dismiss them.

The notification of dismissal came after the regional government decided on April 17 to revoke its conditional approval of the medical center after reviewing the results of a public hearing it commissioned by a group of professionals.

"We cannot employ you anymore as we have to close our business," the center said in the mail sent in the name of the center's chief. "We will discuss matters on the dismissal set under related laws with the representative of the workers."

About 50 medical workers, including nurses, had been working at the hospital for up to two years.

The hospital promised to have the workers given priority in hiring if a new owner takes over.

The nullification of the license came after the regional government conducted the hearing on March 26 after the Chinese group missed the deadline set under the current medical law and the group submitted the results of the hearing to Jeju.

The Greenland medical center received conditional approval from the Jeju government as South Korea's first for-profit hospital on Dec. 5 last year, putting an end to 16 years of controversy over the proposed introduction of investor-owned medical institutions.

The approval was granted on the condition that the hospital treat only foreign patients. But the Greenland Group has strongly protested the ban on South Korean patients, contending that it is illegal for the government of Jeju to ban it from treating domestic patients.

In mid-February, Greenland Jeju Healthcare Town Co., a subsidiary of the Chinese group, filed an administrative lawsuit to have the controversial condition of its operation revoked. In the lawsuit filed with the Jeju District Court, the group insisted that it is unlawful to limit the scope of patients eligible for treatment at the Greenland medical center only to foreigners.

For-profit hospitals in South Korea are only allowed when they combine foreign capital with domestic medical resources and provide comprehensive services to foreign patients in eight free economic zones and Jeju Island.

The Greenland International Medical Center, established in November 2014, had pushed ahead with a plan to add a medical business to the health care town set up in the city of Seogwipo on the island.

In July 2017, the medical center dedicated its building before hiring its medical workers the following month.

The regional government has been preparing for a possibility that the Chinese group's subsidiary may file a fresh lawsuit against the local government in an effort to reverse its decision to cancel the license.

After the medical center expressed its intention to withdraw from its medical business, the regional government is discussing how to deal with it.

Source: Yonhap news Agency

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