Medical school quota hikes cannot be postponed over doctor shortages: health minister

SEOUL, Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong said Tuesday that South Korea cannot afford to postpone the increase in the medical school enrollment quota due to the shortage of doctors and subsequent problems.

Cho made the remarks during a meeting of a medical policy deliberation commission, as the government is pushing to raise the annual enrollment quota for medical school by more than 1,000 from the current 3,058 in an effort to address a doctor shortage and to better protect public health.

"The government takes cases caused by the shortage of doctors seriously, such as long lines to see pediatric doctors and patients scrambling to find emergency rooms," Cho said. "The increase cannot be put off anymore."

The ministry has held 14 rounds of talks with the doctors' association on the matter, but no progress has been made, Cho said, asking for commission members' in-depth discussions to meet the people's expectations.

The commission was launched in August to discuss the adjustment of the quota and relevant issues, and it involves medical experts, consumers' associations and patients' advocacy groups.

The government is expected to unveil the details this week, with the new limit to be applied starting in 2025.

The medical school quota was capped at 3,058 in 2006, and the number of doctors per 1,000 people in South Korea came to 5.6, far below the average of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member nations, according to the health ministry.

Doctors have opposed the government's plan, claiming that the government has simply sought to raise the quota, rather than exploring ways to better allocate physicians and boost compensation, which will compromise the quality of medical education and services.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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