KHMU INFO <4> August 4, 2015
“ I stand up against injustice and violence.”
Catholic University Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital’s
Profit Focused Management, Anti-union Policies and Actions,
and Serious Violations of Human Rights
Branch head, Hong Myeong-ock
On July 28, 2015, with four representatives of the National Assembly, the Korea Health and Medical Workers’ Union (KHMU, President Yoo Ji-hyun) jointly organized a discussion forum titled “What Is Happening Now in Catholic University Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital?” Human rights lawyers and the permanent representative of the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice (CPAJ), activists from civil society and industrial relations experts attended the forum, acting as discussants. The exchange revealed the situation at the catholic hospital in Incheon, and attendees shared possible solutions.
<Catholic University Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital> was established in 1955, first named <St. Mary Mercy Hospital>. Today, it accommodates 800 beds and has approximately 1,400 employees.
The hospital’s labor union was founded in 1987 and in 2004, 232 out of 430 workers belonged to the union. But, in 2005 when the Incheon Diocese of the Catholic Church assumed control of the hospital from the Sisters of the Blessed Korean Martyrs, the relentless pursuit of profits over patient and staff needs began.
Forum presentations exposed hospital management efforts to compel its medical professionals and other employees to work excessive overtime and overreach to make profits: management set a target for the number of patients and posted the current number and the target across the hospital computer system. At the direction of the hospital, employees circulated hospital flyers on the street to recruit more patients. They also ran a campaign to attract more outpatients, marking D-days to meet target numbers such as 2,000 Day and 3,000 Day and forcing doctors to pursue such profit making. This pressure led some doctors to resign. The hospital provides medical consultations to outpatients until as late as 10:00 pm. As a result of such long hours, nurses cannot even make time for lunch. A nurse who has been working for three months now said she did not even know where the hospital canteen was located, and some employees’ pay-slips contain no meal invoices for reimbursement.
Hospital management has disrupted legitimate union activities and forced union members to withdraw. As a result, union membership decreased by 120 in 2006 and today, only 11 employees remain in the union. In 2007, management questioned a matter that occurred two years before and took disciplinary action against 25 regular union members and 10 union executives. Even worse, they filed a claim against 20 union members for damages of KRW 1.18 billion and took an unnecessary action of provisional seizure of properties. Most actions were dismissed, yet union members suffered severe psychological pain for a couple of years while the trial proceeded.
In 2008, a small video camera, apparently for monitoring, was found around the union office. Management even obstructed the circulation of union leaflets, which is a violation of the freedom of expression. On May 1, 2012, to celebrate May Day, the union gave hospital staff around 800 small chocolate pies and yogurts with the brief phrase: “Today is International Labor Day. Have a Wonderful Day!” But, hospital managers directed all staff to return the small refreshments to the union office, dampening morale and creating a bizarre mood in the hospital.
Wages have been frozen for four years in a row. A collective agreement was unilaterally nullified twice by management, and it was further revised to defeat the union’s goals.
Furthermore, the union branch head, Hong Myeong-ock, confided that she had been bullied 20 times over 3 years by a group of 40 managerial level employees.
On March 20, 2015, the media community broadcast that employees of International St. Mary’s Hospital was under police investigation for accusations that the hospital’s employees invited their friends and relatives to the hospital and registered them as patients to raise revenue and claim additional national health insurance benefits.
The international hospital is run by the same management (the Incheon Diocese of the Catholic Church) as that of Catholic University Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital.
And no labor union has been established at the hospital.
On April 2, 2015, a civil group <the Campaign Center against Healthcare Privatization and for Free Medical Services, hereinafter, the Campaign Center> held a press conference to denounce International St. Mary’s Hospital’s false claims of medical costs to the National Health Insurance Service.
In this circumstance, Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital called Hong Myeong-ock, the union branch head to explain a media interview on the International Hospital. Likewise, a group of managers demanded an explanation. They even abused her, bringing her to account
Having been harassed by this group, Hong ended up taking anti-anxiety medications for her adjustment disorder. On April 15, she fell down on her way to work in front of the hospital and was carried to the emergency room. Medical doctors advised her to continue treatment for three months, and she was hospitalized. However, hospital management did not apologize. Instead, they said to her, “You should come to the Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital to get a medical certificate. If not, your absence should be considered <Absence without Permission>.” They informed her that they would take disciplinary action against her.
Hong, the head of the union branch, appealed to the public, “A nurse who served for over three decades, a mother of two daughters and a person aged over 50 should deserve respect, and her human rights should be honored, whoever she is. No one can violate my human rights. I will continue to reveal to society that this evil management still exists in today’s society, and I will never stop resisting this injustice.”
The KHMU President Yoo Ji-hyun stated, “Hospitals should serve to protect health and lives of people, not to make profits. Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital should stop profit-oriented management, labor union repression and human rights violations. It should be an example of a hospital where patients, employees and labor are all respected.” The KHMU also suggested the creation of labor-management communication channels in the university hospital. Similarly, the KHMU proposed a taskforce that would be made up of labor, medical, religious, political and local communities to provide the greatest possible collective intelligence for productive problem solving
On April 17, the KHMU submitted a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea about 16 assailants bullying the branch head, Hong and plans to file a lawsuit against hospital management. At the same time, it will mobilize all resources to hold demonstrations and one-man protests.
Meanwhile, on July 15, <the Incheon Citizens’ Task Force Committee to Urge the Incheon Diocese to Consider Issues and Negotiate with International St. Mary’s Hospital and Catholic University Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital> held a press conference to announce its official launch. The civic committee is also joining supportive activities.
The KHMU declared 2015 as a year of three faces of respect: respect to patients, employees and labor, running a campaign to create a warm environment in hospitals: free of abusive language and behavior.
To this end, throughout March and April, the union conducted site investigations in hospitals and listened to union members’ experiences in their workplaces. Hospitals should not allow abuse, violence, sexual harassment and bullying to occur with impunity. The group-harassment issue observed in Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital motivates us, the KHMU to strengthen our campaign to eliminate abuse, violence, sexual harassment and group harassment.
KBS broadcast news of bullying in the Catholic University Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital(23 April, 2015) https://youtu.be/YdimfEe_6I0
2. MBC news broadcast the evidence of false patient claims at International St. Mary’s Hospital (20 March, 2015) https://youtu.be/N4-9o-6amJA
discussion forum titled “What Is Happening Now in Catholic University Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital?”
On July 28, 2015, National Assembly the Korea Health and Medical Workers’ Union
Civil Society and the KHMU held a press conference at the Incheon Diocese of the Catholic Church, on 15 July,2015.