Health minister makes last-minute appeal to medical professors as resignations loom

Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong on Friday made a last-minute appeal for medical professors not to resign en masse in support of a prolonged walkout by junior doctors, as their threat to resign is expected to further disrupt services at major hospitals. More than 90 percent of the country's 13,000 trainee doctors have walked off the job for nearly four weeks in the form of mass resignations to protest the government's decision to increase enrollment at medical schools by 2,000 spots. The labor action has shown signs of escalating as medical school professors threatened to submit resignations en masse unless the government presents a breakthrough in the prolonged walkout. "The public will find it difficult to understand medical professors participating in collective action by abandoning patients when they should focus on persuading trainee doctors and students to return to hospitals and schools," Cho told a government response meeting. "If professors are concerned about junior doctors and students, please pe rsuade them to return to the place of education," Cho said. Professors of 19 medical schools, meanwhile, launched an emergency committee earlier this week and plan to finalize their deliberations on whether to collectively submit resignations by Friday. Cho said health authorities will have top-tier medical emergency centers to prioritize patients in critical condition, given that those with mild symptoms still take up 27 percent of the patients being treated. "We will ensure timely treatment for patients in critical condition at large-scale medical facilities," he said, addressing concerns over cancellations and delays in surgeries and emergency treatment at local hospitals amid the prolonged walkout. The government has been pushing to sharply raise the number of medical students to brace for the country's fast-aging population, and a shortage of physicians in rural areas and essential areas, such as pediatrics and emergency departments. Doctors, on the other hand, say the quota hikes will undermine the quality of medical education and result in higher medical costs for patients. They have called for measures to first address the underpaid specialists and improve the legal protection against excessive medical malpractice lawsuits. Source: Yonhap News Agency

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