South Korea’s Government Threatens License Suspensions Amid Doctor StrikePatient Harm Escalates Amid Doctors’ Strike in South KoreaSouth Korea to Distribute Additional Medical School Seats Amid Doctors’ ProtestsGovernment Offers Reprieve to Striking Trainee Doctors

SEOUL, South Korea — The South Korean government has issued an ultimatum to trainee doctors, demanding their return to work amid an ongoing strike that reached its seventh day on Monday. The strike, a protest against the government's proposal to increase medical school admissions, has prompted warnings of license suspensions for non-compliant trainee doctors starting next month.

According to Yonhap News Agency, trainee doctors who continue their work stoppage beyond Thursday will face disciplinary actions starting Friday, including a minimum three-month suspension of their medical licenses. This move comes as the standoff between doctors and the government escalates, with concerns for public health intensifying. Park highlighted the severe consequences of license suspension, noting its potential to affect doctors' future career opportunities, both domestically and internationally.

The government has expressed its willingness to engage in dialogue with the medical community, urging the nomination of representatives to facilitate discussion on medical reform. This call for negotiation aims to avert further collective actions that have led to significant disruptions in hospital operations nationwide.

As of now, over 9,000 trainee doctors have abstained from work, and more than 10,000 have submitted resignations, out of approximately 13,000 trainee doctors in the country. The government has assured that no punitive measures will be taken against trainee doctors who resume work by the specified deadline. However, the ongoing strike has not only affected trainee doctors but has also seen participation from senior medical staff, exacerbating the strain on medical services.

Hospitals across South Korea, including major institutions in Seoul and Gwangju, have reported drastic reductions in their operational capacities due to the shortage of medical professionals. The government has also initiated legal actions against those participating in what it deems illegal collective actions.

This dispute stems from the government's initiative to address doctor shortages in rural areas and specific medical fields by increasing the admission quota for medical schools. The medical community, however, argues for alternative solutions, such as better protection from malpractice suits and improved compensation, to encourage practice in less popular specialties.

The Korea Medical Association has condemned the government's stance as coercive, pledging to defend trainee doctors from legal repercussions. This standoff has sparked a broader debate on the future of medical education and healthcare provision in South Korea, with both sides calling for dialogue to resolve the conflict.

DAEJEON — An increasing number of patients are experiencing harm, including a fatal incident involving an elderly woman who died of cardiac arrest without receiving treatment, as trainee doctors continue their strike for the seventh consecutive day. The strike, which began in protest against the government's plan to increase medical school enrollment by 2,000 seats next year, has led to a growing crisis in healthcare services across South Korea.

According to Yonhap News Agency, over 9,000 intern and resident doctors have ceased work at general hospitals nationwide, challenging the government's quota hike plan. This action has significantly disrupted operations in major hospitals, particularly in Seoul and other regions, where trainee doctors form a crucial segment of the medical workforce. The absence of these medical professionals has led to surgeries being conducted at half their normal capacity and some patients requiring urgent care being turned away due to the unavailability of treatment facilities.

In Daejeon, a critical case was reported where a woman in her 80s, suffering from cardiac arrest, was initially refused admission by seven hospitals, citing reasons such as a lack of available doctors and beds. She was declared dead 53 minutes after being transported from her home. Another distressing case involved a man in his 40s from Daejeon, who experienced sudden convulsions and was refused emergency admission by eight hospitals before finally being admitted 37 minutes after departure from his home.

Further incidents included a foreign woman in her 30s who waited approximately three hours for hospital admission due to stomach pain and bleeding, after being rejected by 14 hospitals, and a woman in her 70s from Busan, who was transported to a hospital in Changwon for leg injury treatment after local hospitals refused her admission.

The fire authorities in Daejeon reported 23 cases of delayed emergency medical transportation since the strike began, while Busan has seen 42 such cases. The ongoing strike has raised concerns among general hospital doctors about the potential for hospital operations to be critically impacted, especially if fellowship-trained doctors also decide to join the protest, as hinted. A professor at Chonnam National University Hospital expressed concerns that hospital operations might come to a halt if a significant number of fellowship-trained doctors leave their positions in March, as anticipated.

In response to the escalating crisis, the government announced it could start suspending the licenses of protesting trainee doctors unless they resume work promptly, setting a deadline for their return.

SEOUL — The South Korean government will allocate an additional 2,000 medical school seats to universities by the end of next month, the Education Ministry announced on Monday. This decision comes despite ongoing protests from doctors and indicates the government's determination to address a chronic shortage of medical professionals, particularly in rural areas and high-risk essential fields.

According to Yonhap News Agency, this increase is seen as crucial to meet the nation's healthcare needs.

The standoff between the government and medical practitioners has escalated, with hospital operations becoming increasingly strained. The protest by interns and resident doctors has entered its seventh day, highlighting the depth of opposition within the medical community. Critics of the government's plan argue that it could dilute the quality of medical education and lead to an oversupply of doctors.

Park Sung-min, a senior official at the Education Ministry, stated that the government would gather requests from universities on their needs for additional seats before proceeding with the allocation. "We aim to complete it by late March," Park mentioned, emphasizing the government's commitment to the plan despite opposition. The ministry also noted that over 12,000 medical students had applied for a leave of absence in protest of the quota increase, with students from 11 medical schools boycotting classes.

SEOUL — The South Korean government announced on Monday a conciliatory gesture towards intern and resident doctors, who have been on strike for seven days in protest against plans to increase the medical school quota. Interior Minister Lee Sang-min, during a government meeting, stated that trainee doctors would not face any repercussions if they return to work by Thursday.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the strike has significantly impacted medical services at major general hospitals in Seoul, reducing surgeries to up to 50 percent of capacity and causing inconvenience to patients. In a bid to resolve the crisis, the minister emphasized the government's willingness to overlook the collective action if the trainee doctors resumed their duties promptly, highlighting the severity of the situation and the government's last appeal for their return to the hospitals.

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