Get 40% Off
🚀 Our AI Picked 6 Stocks that Jumped +25% in Q1. Which Picks Will Soar in Q2?Unlock full list

South Korea hospitals on red alert as doctors ramp up protests

Published 22/02/2024, 02:01
Updated 22/02/2024, 16:26
© Reuters. A medical worker walks at Pusan National University Hospital in Busan, South Korea, February 21, 2024.   REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

By Ju-min Park and Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) -Emergency departments at all but one of South Korea's biggest hospitals were on red alert on Thursday as trainee doctors vowed to stay off the job in protest at government plans to increase medical school admissions to boost the healthcare sector.

The protests by almost two-thirds of the country's young doctors, which began this week, has forced hospitals to turn away patients and cancel procedures, raising fears about further disruptions to the medical system should the dispute drag on.

So far, more than 8,400 doctors have joined the walkout, the health ministry said, equivalent to about 64% of the entire resident and intern doctors in South Korea.

The government has threatened to arrest the doctors leading the walkout. The physicians are protesting against a government plan to increase the number of students admitted to medical school in a bid to bolster the healthcare system of one of the world's most rapidly ageing societies.

The doctors say the real issue is pay and working conditions. Park Dan, head of the Korea Interns and Residents Association which is taking part in the protest, said he was willing to be arrested, so that the doctors' demands are heard.

"Everyone is angry and frustrated, so we are all leaving hospitals. Please hear our voices," he said in a radio interview, adding they were open to dialogue if the government was ready to hear their demands.

Some doctors say the increase in admissions will compromise the quality of medical education, a concern about 200 doctors and medical college students raised at a protest rally in the southwestern province of North Jeolla.

"We took to the streets like this because we are concerned that South Korea’s medical system, which is the most envied in the world, would collapse," Um Chul, head of the Jeonbuk Medical Association, was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying.

"Doctors aren't playing turf wars," he added.

About 300 doctors in Seoul held a rally near the presidential office calling on the government to scrap its plan.

Government officials are calling on doctors to stop their protests and prioritise patients.

Many Koreans support the government's plan, with a recent Gallup Korea poll showing about 76 percent of respondents in favour, regardless of political affiliation.

During a hearing in parliament, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo rejected claims by some doctors that the plan to increase the number of medical students was aimed at gaining votes ahead of April's general election.

© Reuters. Doctors shout a slogan in a protest against a plan to admit more students to medical school, in front of the Presidential Office in Seoul, South Korea, February 22, 2024. REUTERS/Kim Soo-Hyeon

The protesters say South Korea has enough doctors, and that the government needs to increase pay and reduce the workload, particularly in key areas such as paediatrics and emergency medicine, before recruiting more students.

Motel rooms and rental houses were fully booked near Seoul's major hospitals by patients from the countryside whose procedures have been delayed, newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported.

Latest comments

Risk Disclosure: Trading in financial instruments and/or cryptocurrencies involves high risks including the risk of losing some, or all, of your investment amount, and may not be suitable for all investors. Prices of cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and may be affected by external factors such as financial, regulatory or political events. Trading on margin increases the financial risks.
Before deciding to trade in financial instrument or cryptocurrencies you should be fully informed of the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite, and seek professional advice where needed.
Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. The data and prices on the website are not necessarily provided by any market or exchange, but may be provided by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual price at any given market, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Fusion Media and any provider of the data contained in this website will not accept liability for any loss or damage as a result of your trading, or your reliance on the information contained within this website.
It is prohibited to use, store, reproduce, display, modify, transmit or distribute the data contained in this website without the explicit prior written permission of Fusion Media and/or the data provider. All intellectual property rights are reserved by the providers and/or the exchange providing the data contained in this website.
Fusion Media may be compensated by the advertisers that appear on the website, based on your interaction with the advertisements or advertisers.
© 2007-2024 - Fusion Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.