Medical service disruptions set to worsen as more doctors join strike

By Park Sae-jin Posted : June 18, 2024, 10:03 Updated : June 18, 2024, 10:03
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SEOUL, June 18 (AJU PRESS) - Doctors at private clinics went on a full-scale strike on Tuesday, joining the ongoing protest by trainee doctors at university hospitals. This worsening situation, sparked by the government's radical reform plans to increase admission quotas at medical schools, could lead to disruptions for patients, resulting in an unprecedented medical service vacuum in Korea.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare on Tuesday, only 4.02 percent of doctors expressed they would close their clinics for the day. But the ministry anticipates the actual number of striking doctors is likely to be higher as some may reduce business hours at their clinics, or simply gave no answer.

A previous poll of some 389 physicians conducted by the Korea Medical Association (KMA) found that 57.8 percent planned to close their clinics. KMA doctors are set to hold a mass rally in Yeouido near central Seoul at 2:00 p.m., despite a government order to stop their strike.

Tuesday's strike follows a full-scale strike by Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH), which began the previous day. SNUH and its affiliated hospitals decided to indefinitely halt all medical services except for emergency rooms and intensive care units.

The decision comes after the government sternly warned trainee doctors, who have been on walkout since February, to return to work or face consequences. The joint walkout of university hospitals and 130,000 KMA doctors could cause medical chaos in Korea, where a doctor sees an average of 38 patients each day.

Since last year, the government has pushed to increase admission quotas at medical schools to improve services and prepare for rising demand as the population ages. Resident doctors at university hospitals began their strike in February through mass resignations, claiming the move would lower the quality of medical education and fail to address staffing shortages.
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