More doctors quit their jobs in Korea

Doctors at medical facilities across South Korea went on strike in a day-long strike on Tuesday, quickly expanding a months-long protest against the government’s health care policies. government begins as residents and interns at major hospitals Stopped working in February.

The doctors participating in the day-long strike belong to the country’s largest doctors’ group, the Korean Medical Association, which has about 140,000 members. According to the group, it is unclear how many people are participating, but its members recently voted three to one in favor of collective action.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol called the latest strike “very disappointing and regrettable” during a televised cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning. It comes a day after hundreds of medical professors at Seoul National University Hospital and other major facilities began stopping work indefinitely.

“I have a weak liver and came for an ultrasound,” Yang Myoung-joo, 84, a patient at Seoul National University Hospital, said Tuesday. She said her appointment was canceled with no new date provided. “Doctors deal with people’s lives. Is going on strike the right thing to do?”

The dispute began in January, when Mr. Yoon’s government announced new health care policies, including plans to significantly expand admissions to medical schools. Doctors said the plan was drawn up without consulting them and would not solve the health care system’s problems. But the government says more doctors are urgently needed in South Korea, which has fewer doctors per capita than most developed countries.

Neither side offered much ground. In May, the government set the medical school admission quota for the 2025 academic year at 4,570 students, an increase of about 1,500 — less than the 2,000 initially proposed, but still a huge jump. That announcement appears to have been the trigger for the most recent labor actions.

“The government has yet to admit its wrongdoings, pushing policies mistakes and condemns the medical community. Dr. Lim said Mr. Yoon’s administration had long ignored the grueling hours and low wages endured by pediatricians and other essential workers.

Although the health system has been strained since February, it has not collapsed. To fill service gaps, the government deployed military doctors and asked nurses to take over some tasks typically performed by doctors. The government said this week it was operating hundreds of emergency rooms nationwide and was making contingency plans in case the dispute dragged on.

Prime Minister Han Duk-soo said in a recent statement that the practice of doctors “leaves a huge scar on society and destroys the trust that has been built over decades between doctors and patients.”

Much of the public also criticized the strike, with some accusing doctors of trying to protect their elite status by keeping their numbers low. The backlash has spread to the medical industry itself, as unionized hospital workers protested in Seoul last week to call on doctors to call off Tuesday’s one-day strike. “Delays in treatment and surgery are painful for patients and enormous pain for hospital staff, who have to endure countless inquiries and complaints,” union statement speak.

Kang Hee-gyung, a pediatrics specialist at Seoul National University Hospital who heads a committee of medical professors who stopped working there, said in a recent press conference that the move was last resort and emphasizes that patients who need immediate care will receive treatment. “We apologize to patients who are in intensive care and have rare diseases,” he said.

The government has tried to persuade interns and residents who quit in February to return to work, backing away from earlier threats to suspend their licenses and promising not to punish those return. But only 7.5% of about 14,000 interns and residents at 211 teaching hospitals showed up for work last week, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

Protest leaders say the protest will only end if the government cancels plans to expand the medical school. But a Health Ministry spokesman said the 2025 enrollment quota was non-negotiable. The patient becomes increasingly frustrated and loses hope for a quick resolution.

“This will probably take several months,” Ms. Yang said. “As a patient, there was nothing I could do.”


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