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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on May 17)

National 06:55 May 17, 2023

Prevent a medical crisis before it's too late

President Yoon Suk Yeol on Tuesday vetoed a revision to the Nursing Act, which had been unilaterally passed by the majority Democratic Party (DP). The president has exercised his veto power for the second time since his veto of a revision to the Grain Management Act last month. If the revision goes into effect, it will help broaden the scope of licensed nurses' activities after it is separated from the universal Medical Service Act.

With the presidential veto, the controversial revision was sent back to the start line. Lawmakers must put the revision to a vote again to override the veto. The Korean Nurses Association (KNA) warned it would take collective action to protest the presidential veto following a massive rally on Gwanghwamun Square last Friday. The KNA plans to oppose the veto by returning their licenses to the government and not performing their extra services in the hospital. The Korean Medical Association (KMA), a doctors group, also resists the president's decision not to veto a revision mandating doctors to return their licenses when they were sentenced to a jail term. After the KMA has threatened to stage a rally, confusion is unavoidable in the medical field.

Politicians must first take responsibility for the crisis. The majority party railroaded the controversial revision without any debates on it. The DP certainly pushed the revision to draw a presidential veto and seek political gains from it even while it was well aware of the repercussions. The party is poised to push ahead with the passages of contentious revisions to the Broadcasting Act and another act aimed to empower labor unions to help win the next parliamentary elections.

The People Power Party (PPP) and the health authorities also cannot avoid responsibility as they failed to mediate between the two medical groups. President Yoon is no exception. (He actually promised to amend the Nursing Act during the campaign.) If the majority opposition's overbearing legislation and a presidential veto are repeated, it will only deepen people's fatigue.

The two medical groups and politicians must take a step back and find a rational solution to their conflict of interest. If the revision to the Nursing Act goes into effect, nurses' aides should be confined to high school graduates. That raises another problem. Given the gloomy results of a poll showing that three out of four nurses thought of giving up their profession, legislation is needed to improve their working environment. The revision to the Nursing Act will most likely be scrapped when it is put to a vote in the legislature again. To avoid medical catastrophe, stakeholders must have a heated debate to enact an alternative bill before it is too late.

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