Government vows to keep hospitals open during strike

07-Aug-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Health minister Park Neung-hoo vowed Thursday to maintain basic medical services as the nation’s intern and resident doctors are scheduled to go on strike on Friday.

“The government is working to maintain basic medical services so that people will not suffer any damage as a result of the strike,” Park said. Friday’s strike is expected to affect patients in big medical centers and Emergency Rooms. It will be followed by another strike on August 14, held by other doctors, including those in local clinics.

Later Thursday, the minister pleaded for the doctors to understand the situation facing Korea and to cooperate with the government’s move to increase the number of doctors.

“Dear doctors, the government’s decision to increase the quota was inevitable for the public and the country. We still have many details to work on, and the government will work on them with open communication with doctors,” said Park during an address.

Korea is feeling the shortage of doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On July 23, the government announced plans to train 4,000 more doctors in the next 10 years by increasing the medical student quota by 400 every year from 2022 ? currently, almost 3,000 students start medical training every year.

Together with that, the government is planning to open a medical school to train doctors who would mainly serve people in rural and remote areas of Korea where there is a shortage of doctors.

The minister’s message was immediately met with backlash from doctors who claimed the government’s proposals failed to assess the situation correctly and demanded the plan be scrapped. The doctors’ have been opposing the government’s plan since it was announced last month.

“Increasing the number of doctors won’t solve any problems. The real problem is public health policy that failed to lay solid medical infrastructure,” the Korean Medical Association (KMA) replied. The doctors insisted remote areas will be attractive to doctors if the basic fee, controlled by the government, rises.

Under the current system, a doctor in a local clinic earns an average of 15,000 won per patient and the doctors want the fee to increase threefold for doctors serving in remote areas.

The pandemic made Korea a quarantine champion around the world but domestically made the government and people feel a shortage of public healthcare workers in general.

The doctors and nurses at testing and treatment centers did not have enough colleagues to meet demand. Health ministry officials repeatedly stated that healthcare workers suffer accumulated fatigue which could cause a collapse of the medical system in the face of another wave of the pandemic.

The ministry has been unsuccessful in trying to engage in dialogue with the doctors’ group, which now demands a meeting with the prime minister.

Korea has more than 100,000 doctors, or 2.3 doctors per 1,000 citizens. The ratio is among the lowest in OCED countries. But local doctors claim the ratio will increase in the future as Korea’s population shrinks, alleviating the shortage.


Category: Korea

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