Healthcare crisis looming as trainee doctors expected to resign

Feb 19, 2024, 09:30 am

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The Korean Medical Association (KMA) in Seoul on Feb. 14, 2024./ Photographed by Song Eui-joo

AsiaToday reporter Lee Joon-young

Healthcare crisis is looming as doctors have warned of a collective action.

According to the medical community on Sunday, South Korea’s healthcare sector is facing disruption as trainee doctors in the country’s top five hospitals decided to resign en masse in protest against the government’s decision to increase medical school freshmen quota. The five major general hospitals refer to Seoul National University Hospital, Severance Hospital, Samsung Medical Center, Asan Medical Center, and the Catholic University of Korea Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital. 

Severance Hospital has issued a notice on Friday regarding its operating rooms. “As the absence of trainee doctors is expected starting Monday at 6 a.m., the operation of the operating room of the anesthesiology department is expected to be less than 50% compared to usual. Please submit the list of patients for surgery and postponement among those scheduled for surgery by Monday,” the hospital said. 

Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, and Gangnam Severance Hospital are also known to have guided their patients on the possibility of changing their surgery and hospitalization schedules. Gangnam Severance Hospital plans to conduct emergency surgery only on Tuesday as doctors have announced they will stop working after submitting their resignation letter. Some hospitals are known to compile a list of patients whose surgery can be postponed, or classify patients according to their importance. 

The Korean Intern Resident Association (KIRA) announced Friday that they have discussed with trainee doctors at the five hospitals to submit their resignations by Monday and stop working after 6 a.m. Tuesday.

The Korean Medical Association’s Emergency Response Committee on Saturday decided to take a vote on their collective action. The emergency committee plans to hold an emergency meeting and a condemnation meeting of representatives nationwide on February 25. After that, it will push for a large-scale assembly involving lawmakers.

Medical students will also join the protest by taking a leave of absence on Tuesday. The Korea Association of Medical Colleges (KAMC) said that during an emergency committee extraordinary general meeting on Friday, student representatives approved the mass leave of absence and equivalent actions.

The government said it will strictly respond to such collective action, vowing to take any measures available under the law, including revoking doctors’ licenses. It ordered major training hospitals to prohibit acceptance of collective resignation and ordered medical organizations such as the KMA to prohibit collective action. 

#healthcare #doctors #resign #hospitals #KMA 
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