Home World NewsKorea Concerns over public health deepen as mass walkout by trainee doctors enters 7th day

Concerns over public health deepen as mass walkout by trainee doctors enters 7th day

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Concerns over public health deepened Monday as surgeries were delayed or reduced as thousands of trainee doctors didn’t come to work for the seventh day in a row in protest of the government’s plan to boost the number of medical students.

About 8,000 trainee doctors have left worksites to protest against the plan to admit 2,000 more students to medical schools next year from the current 3,058 seats to address a shortage of doctors.

Adding to the chaos at hospitals, fellow doctors, who have been stepping in to cover the absence of trainee doctors on leave, were observed joining the collective action.

“There are circulating rumors that doctors, who have completed their residency and were slated to commence their fellowship Friday, are engaging in an unusual movement,” an official from a major hospital in Seoul said.

At Chosun University Hospital in Gwangju, 267 kilometers southeast of Seoul, 12 out of 14 fellows decided not to renew their contracts and leave in March.

Newly graduated medical students also recently declined internships, signaling an extended shortage of doctors on duty at major hospitals.

Hospitals across the nation continued to grapple with ongoing disruptions, with Severance Hospital in Seoul halving its operation schedule. Samsung Medical Center also reportedly reduced the number by 45 to 50 percent.

Other major hospitals, including the Catholic University of Korea Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital and Seoul National University Hospital, took similar moves amid the shortage of doctors on duty.

On the previous day, the government initiated moves to take legal action against doctors engaging in illegal collective actions, with the justice ministry assigning a prosecutor to the health ministry to offer advice.

The government has been warning that those leading the collective action could face arrest and doctors involved in a strike could have their medical licenses canceled.

South Korea has been pushing to increase the number of medical freshmen to address a shortage of doctors, particularly in rural areas and essential medical fields, such as high-risk surgeries, pediatrics, obstetrics and emergency medicine.

Doctors, however, argue that the government should rather focus on protecting them from malpractice suits and improving compensation to induce more physicians to practice in such unpopular areas. (Yonhap)

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