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Green Party Korea Position Paper - COVID 19

Green Party Korea Position Paper

Countermeasures against COVID19 and A Green New Deal for Citizen’s Health

February 24, 2020

 Green Party Korea wishes the recovery of all infected, and expresses its deepest gratitude to all actors who are working day and night to counter COVID19, including the government, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), epidemic control and medical personnel, and public officials. We are now periodically facing infectious diseases from swine flu to SARS, MERS to COVID19; such outbreaks and calamities are expected to increase in frequency in the age of climate crisis. In response, we advocate an expansion in public health services as a form of adaptation policy that will better equip us to mitigate large-scale disasters due to climate change.

The ‘health incentive system’ proposed by the Democratic Party, which effectively puts the responsibility over health on individuals, is not the right approach. The Green New Deal, on the other hand, strives for a transition in society and the economy by investing the government’s budget, personnel, and resources into reductions and adaptation, comparable to wartime situations, for the survival of citizens in the age of climate crisis. It is also the first and foremost pledge put forth by the Green Party, which includes the objectives of ensuring citizen’s health and safety, relieving health inequalities, and creating jobs through increased investment in public healthcare.

The issues

Ecological destruction and factory farming: The development of the coronavirus can be attributed to climate change, indiscriminate exploitation of wild animals, and loss of habitats due to aggressive construction and development, which caused the habitats of humans to coincide with that of bats. The shift to a single species to increase production has formed a condition that is vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases. Together, ecological destruction and close breeding in factory farms is building an environment that is exposed to the periodic outbreak of zoonotic diseases.

Travel and concentration: The coronavirus that developed in China spread across the world with the speed of planes. Domestically, the epidemic spread quickly in proportion to the distances traveled by infected persons, as well as in highly populated areas, such as big cities and chapels (of particular belief). As long as travel and concentration continue to accelerate, controlling infectious diseases will continue to become more challenging.

Community resilience: As important as national response mechanisms are, so are the responses and resilience of local governments and communities. The primary agent in preventing disasters and the spread of epidemics caused by climate change must be local governments and communities.

Publicness and democracy: The more democratic a society, the better it responds to disasters. Information transparency and communication are crucial. We must remember that those most affected by emergency situations, such as the outbreak of epidemics, are those most marginalized in society. In circumstances where fear dominates, human rights is, essentially, prevention, as stigma, hatred, and exclusion are too easy to grow.

 The Green Party’s alternatives and commitments

 1. Filling the gap in (health) care provision:

  • We must increase screening clinics to identify coronavirus patients among those with fever and/or respiratory problems. We must also increase the number of designated medical facilities in order that coronavirus patients receive safe treatment. The designation must include measures to spread the accommodation of patients across hospitals. Private medical institutions must also be mandated to cooperate.
  • We must consider the shutdown of hospital emergency rooms with utmost prudence and ensure that emergency patients, the elderly, and patients with chronic illnesses can receive required treatment. The same must be ensured for all past patients; they should not be negatively affected for reasons of countering COVID19.
  • We must ensure that no elder person, person with disabilities, infant, and any other person in need of care is left behind. Face masks must be freely distributed to the elderly and those whose health may be particularly at risk.

 2. Providing direct support for economically affected citizens:

  • The government should compensate for economic losses incurred by restaurants, business owners, and related industries as a result of cooperating to prevention measures.
  • Paid leave must be guaranteed to all persons with respiratory problems or fever, regardless of whether one has been officially diagnosed. The same must hold for those with family members who have been quarantined or show symptoms. The government must provide partial compensation for small businesses.
  • Flexible working hours and/or breaks for treatment must be applied to protect the health of public transportation users and workers in the service sector.

 3. Establishing public health centers as regional hubs:

  • The government must support public health centers in order that they serve as special hospitals for treatment of infectious diseases. An autonomous prevention system must be set up by ensuring that a public health center is established within each or every 2-3 counties/cities.
  • A shortage of negative pressure isolation rooms, public hospitals, and hospital beds has become a reality with the increase of confirmed patients. In the age of climate crisis with outbreaks of infectious diseases and disasters, the expansion public healthcare is indispensable to protect the health and save the lives of citizens.
  • The budget for such an expansion must be included in the supplementary budget for 2020, as well as the healthcare budget for 2021. Based on the number of hospital beds, the percentage of public health centers falls considerably short of the OECD average (73%) at around 10%, even after MERS swept through the country. Current prevention measures against COVID19 are operating under the CDCP’s system, while the physical infrastructure and facilities has remained unchanged under the Moon Administration.
  • A participatory governance and primary healthcare structure within the community that connects systems for healthcare and welfare must be established. By creating a Health Committee in each metropolitan area, countermeasures to crisis situations can be sought in advance. Mock trainings can also be conducted with community participation.
  • Learning from the case of Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, we must close down locked mental health wards and, instead, establish community-based mental health systems in order to deinstitutionalize and provide alternative care for persons with psychosocial disabilities.

 4. Establishing a public medical school and increasing medical personnel:

  • We are in desperate need of more medical personnel and training. The Green Party will drive the establishment of a public medical school and increase admissions for national medical and pharmacy departments. Students will be admitted in consideration of regional balance and admitted students will be ensured full scholarship under the condition of serving at least 10 years in the regional public healthcare sector.
  • By building a network between regional public health centers, national university hospitals, and the National Medical Center, we will establish a locally-based, national, and efficient public healthcare system.
  • In order for specialists in infectious diseases to be available at all times, a corresponding infrastructure, such as training, education, and research institutions that are run by public hospitals and/or the government, must be in place. Therefore, the establishment of special hospitals and efforts to expand the pool of specialists must be carried out hand in hand.
  • Also of urgent need is more nursing personnel. Currently, the number of nurses per hospital bed in South Korea is less than a third of OECD’s average. It is important that we prevent infections that occur in the course of caring for an infected family member. Therefore, the government must present decent standards for nursing personnel and improve their working conditions and environment.

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