South Korea Faces Health Service Disruptions as Trainee Doctors’ Strike Enters Third WeekSouth Korea Faces Medical Service Disruptions Amid Trainee Doctors’ Strike

SEOUL - A mass walkout by approximately 12,000 trainee doctors in South Korea has entered its 20th day, significantly disrupting health care services across the country. The government has been compelled to enact emergency measures to address the shortfall of medical personnel resulting from the strike. The protest, which involves over 90 percent of the country's 13,000 medical interns and residents, is a reaction to the government's decision to increase medical school admissions by 2,000 in the following year.

According to Yonhap News Agency, a pilot program was introduced last month allowing nurses to perform certain duties typically reserved for doctors, albeit in a limited capacity. Furthermore, the government has taken steps to open emergency units at military hospitals to the public and plans to deploy military and public doctors to private hospitals nationwide for the next four weeks starting Monday. Concurrently, officials have reiterated their commitment to expanding medical student enrollment while issuing warnings to striking trainee doctors who have been accused of harassing their colleagues who chose to return to work.

Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong expressed the government's stance in a recent meeting, condemning any form of attack or coercion against medical professionals committed to their duties amidst the strike. The government has also initiated procedures to suspend the medical licenses of those participating in the strike, with notifications being sent to doctors yet to resume work. These documents outline the consequences of continued absence, including potential license suspension if feedback is not provided by March 25.

The strike has not only led to a significant delay and cancellation of surgeries and other medical treatments but has also prompted discussions within the medical community about the government's healthcare policies. Critics of the strike argue that the underlying motive is a concern over increased competition and reduced income for doctors. Meanwhile, the Korean Medical Association (KMA) maintains that the government's plan fails to address deeper issues within the healthcare system, such as disparities in doctor distribution and shortages in less lucrative medical fields.

Efforts to resolve the impasse have seen mixed results, with some medical school professors resigning in protest against their institutions' acceptance of the government's expansion plan. Despite ongoing dialogue attempts, a resolution to the dispute remains elusive, highlighting the complex challenges facing South Korea's healthcare system amid the ongoing strike by trainee doctors.

SEOUL - South Korea's healthcare system is experiencing significant disruptions, with major general hospitals reporting continued delays and cancellations of surgeries due to an ongoing strike by trainee doctors. The walkout, which has lasted for nearly three weeks, shows no signs of nearing a resolution, with more than 90% of the country's 13,000 medical interns and residents having resigned en masse. The strike is in protest against the government's decision to increase medical school enrollment by 2,000 students next year.

According to Yonhap News Agency, there has been little progress in initiating dialogue between the government and the striking doctors, despite growing calls from the medical community for a resolution. In response to the walkout, the government has begun the process of suspending the medical licenses of those trainee doctors who have not returned to work, issuing notices that detail the government's back-to-work order. Those who fail to provide feedback by March 25 risk having their licenses suspended.

The situation has prompted some medical school professors to resign in protest of their universities' compliance with the government's expansion plan, further highlighting the depth of opposition within the medical community. A recent meeting among a group of medical professors aimed at finding a resolution ended without success.

To address the shortfall in medical staff, health authorities have authorized nurses at major hospitals to perform critical tasks such as CPR and administer medication to emergency patients under a pilot program. Additionally, emergency units at military hospitals have been opened to the public to alleviate some of the pressure on the healthcare system.

The strike underscores a significant conflict within South Korea's medical system, with the striking doctors arguing that the government's plan will lead to increased competition and reduced incomes. The Korean Medical Association (KMA), representing doctors nationwide, contends that the plan fails to address underlying issues in the medical system, such as shortages in less lucrative fields and the concentration of doctors in urban areas.

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