Gov’t to check hospitals, issue back-to-work order to striking trainee doctors

SEOUL, The health ministry said Monday it will inspect 10 hospitals in areas outside the greater Seoul area amid no sign of progress in ending a strike by trainee doctors.
The ministry said it will check the situations of emergency rooms and intensive care units at the hospitals during the on-site inspections, and it plans to issue a back-to-work order to striking trainee doctors.
The ministry carried out two similar inspections of 40 hospitals across the country last week.
The government’s tough stance came a day after the emergency task force of the Korean Intern and Resident Association voted in favor of an indefinite walkout.
Thousands of trainee doctors working at the general hospitals began the strike on Aug. 21 to protest the government’s medical reform scheme.
“We are calling on trainee doctors to immediately return to emergency rooms and intensive care units where critically ill patients are treated, regardless of the government’s forcible actions,” Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official, said in a briefing.
On Saturday, South Korea’s health authorities issued back-to-work orders to 278 striking doctors, warning of possible prison terms.
Their collective actions spawned concerns about disruptions in the health care system at a time when the country is struggling to contain spiking virus cases.
As part of the country’s medical workforce reform plan, the government is planning to expand admission quotas at medical schools by 4,000 over the next 10 years, starting in 2022, and to open a new public medical school, as it seeks to broaden the reach of health care services.
Protesting doctors said the government’s policy was made in a “hasty and unilateral” decision.
Medical students across the nation have decided to boycott the state licensing exam and school classes in protest of the government’s policy.
Medical professors called on the government to postpone the exam and discuss the contentious issue with the medical sector from scratch.
But the health ministry said it will press ahead with the exam as scheduled and tackle a potential shortage of doctors later.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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