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South Korean doctors’ strike escalates as senior doctor resigns

Senior doctors at South Korea’s major hospitals began resigning en masse on Monday in support of medical interns and residents who have been on strike for five weeks as the government pushes to significantly increase medical school enrollment.

The actions of senior doctors are unlikely to lead to an immediate deterioration in South Korea’s hospital operations as they said they would continue working even after submitting their resignations.But prospects for an early end to the medical impasse are also slim, as the planned action by doctors comes after President Yun Seok-yeol called for talks with doctors and suggested a possible easing of punitive measures. Measures against striking junior doctors.

About 12,000 interns and residents face imminent license revocation for refusing to end a strike that has led to the cancellation of hundreds of surgeries and other treatments at hospitals.

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They oppose the government’s plan to raise the cap on enrollment in South Korea’s medical schools by two-thirds, saying schools cannot cope with such a dramatic increase in students and will ultimately harm South Korea’s medical services. But officials say more doctors are urgently needed because South Korea’s population is aging rapidly and its doctor-to-population ratio is one of the lowest among developed countries.

In a meeting with ruling party leader Han Dong-hoon on Sunday, medical professors and doctor representatives from about 40 university hospitals, where junior doctors work during their training, expressed support for the striking doctors, saying the government’s recruitment plan “will undermine Our team of doctors.” Kim Chang-soo, chairman of the universities’ emergency committee, said on Monday.

Kim called Yoon’s proposal a positive step but said the current impasse between doctors and the government would not be resolved unless the government withdraws its recruitment plan.

On March 25, 2024, a meeting was held at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea, and medical professors lined up to submit their resignations. (Yoon Dong-jin/Yonhap News Agency, Associated Press)

He said the university’s doctors were expected to stick to earlier plans to voluntarily submit their resignations and reduce their hours to 52 hours a week, the legal limit. The teen left the hospital.

“If the government intends to withdraw its plan or intends to consider the plan, we are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues with the government in front of the public,” Kim said.

According to doctors involved in the protests, some senior doctors took the initiative to submit their resignations late on Monday, and some doctors had already submitted their resignations last week.

After Sunday’s meeting, Han Kuo-yu asked Yoon Eun-hye’s office to “flexibly handle” issues with the plan. Suspension of licenses of striking doctorsYin then asked the prime minister to take “flexible measures” to resolve the dispute and seek constructive consultation with doctors, according to Yin’s office.

It’s unclear if and how soon the government and doctors will sit down for talks and achieve a breakthrough. Some observers said the government may relax penalties for striking doctors and seek dialogue with doctors, as further developments could be linked to next month’s parliamentary elections. Disruption of hospital operations does not help the ruling party candidates.

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Junior doctors on strike account for less than 10% of South Korea’s 140,000 doctors, but in some large hospitals they account for about 30% to 40% of doctors, assisting senior doctors during operations and handling inpatients during training.

Public survey shows most South Koreans support government push to create more doctors, who critics say is one of the highest-paying professions in Koreaworried that the increase in the number of doctors will lead to a decrease in income.

Officials say more doctors are needed to address chronic shortages in rural areas and in important but low-wage specialties. But doctors say newly recruited students will also try to work in the capital region and in high-paying fields such as plastics. They say the government scheme could also lead to doctors performing unnecessary treatments because of increased competition.

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