PM vows active dialogue with medical community amid prolonged rift

Mar 27, 2024, 10:20 am

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Medical staff are walking at a university hospital in Seoul on March 26 amid the prolonged conflict between the government and medical community./ Source: Yonhap News

AsiaToday reporters Jung Min-hoon & Hong Sun-mi 

The government reiterated its willingness to increase the medical school enrollment quota by 2,000 seats, urging doctors who submitted their resignations to engage in dialogue. Expectations have grown that President Yoon Suk-yeol’s call for a “flexible” measure could open the way for dialogue between the government and doctors. However, the prospect is gloomy as the medical community, including medical school professors that have begun collective resignations, is demanding withdrawal of the allocation of seats. In the meantime, Prime Minister Han Duk-soo met with the medical community and expressed his desire for the government and the doctors to hold talks.

Han met with representatives of the medical schools and related educational agencies at the Seoul National University’s Yeongeon Campus on Tuesday, where he asked to form a “constructive consultative body” to hold dialogue. 

Earlier in the day, President Yoon urged the medical community at a Cabinet meeting to start dialogue. “Some medical professors began to submit their resignations on Wednesday,” he said. “We urge medical professors and professionals to actively engage in dialogue with the government for medical reform.” 

In particular, Yoon stressed that experts from all fields, including the medical community, will participate in the Special Committee on Medical Reform, which will be launched next month, to discuss concrete measures for medical reform. The president said he would innovate the overall medical system by fostering competent local hospitals, strengthening the capacity to treat children and pregnant patients, and expanding investment in R&D for essential medical care. 

Civic groups also pointed out that the government should not accept the medical community’s unconditional request to withdraw the allocation of seats, and that the medical community should come to the table for dialogue. The Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice issued a statement, saying, “The expansion of the number of medical school enrollment quota by 2,000 is an inevitable measure to solve the problem that has been pending for 20 years due to the opposition of doctors,” adding, “The medical community is only repeating its claim that doctors will leave the hospital if the government does not withdraw its plan, and they should stop acting without justification and return to patients immediately.”

Meanwhile, while the suspension of license of defiant trainee doctors has been suspended, a large number of medical professors across the country resigned on Tuesday. Medical school professors plan to voluntarily submit their resignations by Friday.

#doctors #Han Duk-soo #medical reform 
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