South Korean government announces suspension of striking doctors

(Seoul) The South Korean government indicated on Monday that it would suspend the practice authorizations of young doctors who have resigned if they do not return to work, in a context of massive strikes in reaction to a proposed reform of health studies.

Around 10,000 medical interns, or 80.8% of the training workforce, have resigned over the past two weeks.

They are protesting against the government’s plan to increase admissions to medical schools by 65% ​​from next year to combat shortages and an aging population.

“Starting today, the government will implement legal measures,” Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo said at a news conference.

The striking professionals continued their movement despite the February 29 deadline set by the government for the return to work and are therefore liable to legal action.

“If they violate the government’s return to work order, a three-month suspension is inevitable,” Park said, adding that inspections will be carried out on Monday to determine who has returned to work.

If “the absence of doctors is confirmed” on site, they will be notified by the government of the procedures for suspending their professional license.

Since February 23, South Korea has raised its state of health alert to the highest level following the wave of mass resignations of interns.

Doctors are considered essential workers in South Korea and the law prevents them from striking.

According to the Health Ministry, about half of the surgeries planned at some major hospitals have been canceled since last week.

Despite repeated appeals from the government, the return to work of interns remained “minimal”, specified the n. 2 from the Ministry of Health.

Seoul has stood firm on its reform plan, saying it has one of the lowest doctor-patient ratios among developed countries.

The resigning doctors argue that this reform would harm the quality of care. Supporters of the project say doctors are most concerned that the reforms could degrade their salaries and social status.

Up to 75% of the South Korean population supports increasing medical school admissions, according to polls, as residents in remote areas struggle to access quality care.

source site-59