Jinju Medical Center closed
South Gyeongsang Province shut down Jinju Medical Center (JMC), a provincial government-funded public general hospital, Wednesday, despite strong protests from its unionized workers.
The decision to enforce the closure was made by Gov. Hong Joon-pyo, a seasoned conservative politician of the ruling Saenuri Party who accused the hospital in the southeastern city of being a “refugee for aristocratic unionists.”
The South Gyeongsang governor who took office in February said that it was inevitable to close JMC because its deficit had reached 27.9 billion won. He also said that the hospital spent most of its revenue on salaries for employees.
“If I were only interested in popularity, I might have overlooked it. However, that is not justice nor performing the duty of a civil servant,” Hong told reporters in a press conference in Changwon, the capital city of the province.
However, Hong faces a strong backlash from unionists of the hospital who will lose their jobs and residents of the region who were deprived of a public medical center which they can use at cheaper costs than private counterparts.
“Who is an aristocrat? Is it employees of JMC who worked for patients, or Hong Joon-pyo, who has more than 2 billion won assets,” said Shin Seung-il, vice chairman of the National Union of Medical Industry, in a press conference outside the Ministry of Health and Welfare in central Seoul.
Politicians both from opposition and governing parties criticized the lawmaker-turned-governor over lacking a sense of public healthcare and his “one-way” communication style
Health Minister Chin Yong was one of those who criticized Hong.
“I am very disappointed with the decision to close Jinju Medical Center. The government and the ruling party asked him to reconsider it, but he did not listen to us,” said Chin at a luncheon meeting with reporters in a Seoul restaurant.
Chin visited Hong last month, asking for not to close the hospital, but Hong declined to accept it, saying there was no other choice but to shut it down.