Senior doctors lambaste Yoon’s national address on medical reform

Senior doctors lashed out at President Yoon Suk Yeol on Monday for repeating "false claims" on the planned hike in medical school admissions and junior doctors' walkout without presenting any solution to resolve the medical service disruptions. Earlier in the day, Yoon called on doctors to come up with a "unified proposal" on the appropriate admission increase during an address to the nation, saying that the government will be open to talks though it believes a hike of 2,000 is the minimum. More than 90 percent of the country's 13,000 trainee doctors have been on strike in the form of mass resignations since Feb. 20 to protest the government's decision to dramatically increase the enrollment quota starting next year. The current figure is set at 3,058. "I don't even want to make comments on the address. 'No comment' is our association's official stance," Lim Hyun-taek, the head-elect of the Korea Medical Association (KMA), told Yonhap News Agency. Bang Jae-seung, head of an emergency response committee f or medical professors nationwide, said that the address "well revealed that the government has neither the willingness nor the capabilities to address the current situation, though the state medical system is at stake." Roh Hwan-kyu, the former KMA head, wrote on Facebook that Yoon did not back down "as expected and repeated false, absurd claims and biased information," and claimed that "faulty politics" is to blame for the current medical service disruptions. During the address, Yoon said that the government came up with the plan of having 2,000 more seats through thorough calculations after having "sufficient and wide-ranging discussions with the medical community as part of medical reform measures, and doctors need to present a unified proposal based on "a clear and scientific basis." A doctor in Seoul said on condition of anonymity, however, that the government has not put forth any detailed plans on how to finance nurturing a larger number of doctors and beefing up essential medical fields, and such a hasty push will compromise the quality of education and training for doctors. Others downplayed Yoon's address as an action that tries to minimize potential negative impacts of the issue on the ruling party ahead of the April 10 general elections. "It now became even more difficult to resolve the walkout and the massive leave of absence by medical school students. The medical system will completely be disastrous, particularly at night and during holidays," another doctor said. "This case will be left as one of the most shameful incidents in our history, where the government ruined the people's livelihoods, the medical system and the economy," he added. The government is pushing to increase the admission quota to address a shortage of doctors, particularly in rural areas and essential medical fields, such as high-risk surgeries, pediatrics, obstetrics and emergency medicine. Given the rapid population aging and other issues, South Korea is also expected to fall short of 15,000 doctors by 2035. But doctor s argue that the government must devise ways of better protecting them from malpractice suits and extending compensation to induce more physicians to practice in such "unpopular" areas. Amid the prolonged walkout and a standoff by the government and doctors, even some ruling party lawmakers have called on the government to be flexible in pushing for the plan, rather than sticking to the 2,000-person raise. The government has been taking administrative steps to suspend the licenses of striking doctors as they missed a government-set deadline to return to work late last month. In support of the junior doctors' move, medical school professors nationwide began submitting their resignations Monday. The professors, who serve as senior doctors at major hospitals, have also reduced their weekly work hours to 52 hours by adjusting surgeries and other medical treatments and vowed to minimize medical services for outpatients. Source: Yonhap News Agency

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