Hospitals in South Korea on high alert as doctors continue protests  

The protesting doctors argue that the South Korea government should focus on improving doctors’ pay and reducing workloads.

Soumya Sharma February 23 2024

All the emergency departments across South Korea’s hospitals, except one, are on high alert after trainee doctors' continued their protests against government reforms to increase medical school admissions. 

The protests, that commenced earlier this week, are causing widespread disruption to hospital services in the country, as almost two-thirds of the country's trainee doctors have participated in the walkout.  

They have also resulted in ‘red alert’ situation across the country’s emergency departments, with many hospitals forced to turn away patients and cancel procedures.  

South Korea’s health ministry confirmed that over 8,400 doctors, representing about 64% of all resident and intern doctors in the country, have joined the strike, a Reuters report noted.  

The government has responded with threats of arrest for those leading the walkout.  

The trainee doctors are protesting in response to the government’s decision to increase the medical school admissions to improve the healthcare system. 

However, the doctors claimed that the issue is of pay and working conditions. 

The news agency quoted Korea Interns and Residents Association head Park Dan as saying: “Everyone is angry and frustrated, so we are all leaving hospitals. Please hear our voices.” 

The protesting doctors argue that South Korea has an adequate number of doctors, and the government should instead focus on improving pay and reducing workloads, especially in critical areas like paediatrics and emergency medicine. 

Around 200 doctors and medical students have also voiced their worries related to ‘the quality of medical education’ during a rally in North Jeolla province.  

Meanwhile, approximately 300 doctors in Seoul held a rally near the presidential office, urging the government to abandon its plan. 

In response to the ongoing crisis, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo announced that public hospitals will be required to extend working hours and expand telemedicine services in the country. 

This is expected to mitigate the impact of the mass walkout. 

The ongoing protest is causing widespread disruption to hospital services and ‘red alert’ situation across South Korea’s emergency departments.

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