Seoul Hospitals Face Service Disruptions as Trainee Doctors Strike Over Admission Quota Increase

SEOUL - Operations at Seoul's five largest general hospitals experienced significant disruptions on Tuesday, following a mass walk-off by interns and resident doctors protesting the government's plan to increase the medical school admission quota. The collective resignations of over 6,400 trainee doctors across the country have sparked concerns of a looming healthcare crisis, as these facilities heavily depend on the contributions of trainee doctors for their daily operations.

According to Yonhap News Agency, approximately 1,600 trainee doctors did not report for duty, leading to postponed or rescheduled surgeries and longer wait times for urgent care. Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH), typically bustling, was notably quieter as a result of the protest. The strike has not only impacted the availability of medical services but also the livelihoods of related workers, such as a 74-year-old private caregiver who reported difficulty finding work due to the decreased number of patients at SNUH.

St. Mary's Hospital and Severance Hospital, located in southern and western Seoul respectively, also reported slowed operations due to the absence of some trainee doctors. Notably, the ophthalmic department at Severance Hospital had to suspend its first-stage diagnosis services for patients referred from local clinics, as resident doctors responsible for these services joined the walkout.

The strike has caused frustration and inconvenience for many, including the family of a lung cancer patient at Asan Medical Center, who were advised to seek treatment at another hospital due to the strike's impact on service availability. Despite these challenges, there have been no reports of critical service disruptions. However, the legitimacy of the trainee doctors' collective action has been called into question by patients and their families, with some expressing support for the government's plan to expand the medical school quota to address doctor shortages, while others struggle to understand the doctors' opposition.

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