South Korean medical professionals join the protests, reducing working hours

By Hyun Yim

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean medical professionals said they will reduce their working hours starting on Monday to support doctors who have been on strike for more than a month over a government plan to boost medical school enrollment.

“It is clear that the expansion of medical schools will not only destroy medical school education but also cause our country’s health system to collapse,” Kim Chang-soo, president of the Medical Professors Association of Korea, told reporters.

He said professors have begun reducing outpatient services to focus on emergency and critically ill patients, while others have offered to resign.

A strike by trainee doctors over a plan to increase the number of students admitted each year to medical school from 2025 has caused several hospitals to turn away patients and delay the process.

The government says the plan is vital to tackling the shortage of doctors in the world’s fastest-growing sector, but critics say authorities should first focus on improving the quality of trained doctors.

The trained doctors have been on strike since Feb 20, and the President Yoon Suk Yeolwho has made health care reform one of his signature items, vowed not to back down from implementing the legal system.

The government has also threatened to suspend the licenses of doctors who have resigned but on Sunday, Yoon appeared to be seeking a compromise and urged Prime Minister Han Duck-soo to find “flexible solutions” to deal with the suspension.

Yoon’s office said it had also ordered the prime minister to form a “support organization” to consult with all medical professionals.

According to a Gallup poll released on March 15, 38% said the government is doing a good job in dealing with the conflict between doctors and the medical crisis amid the doctors’ strike, while 49% said it was “not a good job”.

(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim; Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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