South Korean Government to Take Firm Action Against Doctors’ Planned Strike Over Medical Quota Increase

SEOUL - The South Korean ruling party has issued a stern warning against a forthcoming strike by doctors, emphasizing the necessity of increasing the number of medical professionals to address the country's healthcare service shortages.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the move to expand the medical school enrollment quota by 2,000 next year is crucial for enhancing medical services and addressing the scarcity of essential healthcare in provincial areas.

The party's statement comes in response to the announcement by trainee doctors at major hospitals of their intention to resign early next week, coupled with threats from the medical community of a large-scale strike in opposition to the government's quota adjustment decision. The Korea Intern Resident Association has reported that trainee doctors from five leading general hospitals in Seoul, including Asan Medical Center, Samsung Medical Center, Severance Hospital, Seoul National University Hospital, and Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, plan to submit their resignations en masse on Monday and commence a walkout on Tuesday.

These hospitals are pivotal in delivering care to critically ill patients, highlighting the potential impact of the strike. In anticipation, the health ministry has directed 221 training hospitals to prohibit mass leave and ensure the retention of essential medical staff, underlining the government's commitment to firm action against any collective movements by doctors that could jeopardize patient safety. The ministry has also instructed training hospitals to refuse the resignation letters from intern and resident doctors, emphasizing the legal obligations of doctors as essential workers to return to work under government orders.

Public sentiment appears to lean against the doctors' strike, with a December survey by the Korean Health and Medical Workers' Union revealing that 89.3% of respondents support the government's plan to increase the medical student quota, and 85.6% oppose the doctors' strike. Despite the government's firm stance and public opinion, medical students have also signaled intentions to boycott classes in protest of the quota hike plan.

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