Gov’t pledges stern measures over looming collective action by doctors

Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo speaks at a briefing on the medical school quota issue at the government complex, Seoul, Feb. 15. Yonhap

The health ministry said Thursday it will take stern measures if any cllective action by doctors over a plan to boost the number of medical students threatens the safety of patients.Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo made the remarks as tension between doctors and the government has grown over last week’s decision to add 2,000 to the country’s medical school enrollment quota next year, marking a sharp rise from the sportstotozonecom current 3,058 seats.Park called for doctors not to “threaten the life and health of patients. If it becomes a threat, the government will sternly respond in accordance with law and principle.”As some trainee doctors have reportedly moved toward a collective submission of letters of resignation, Park said the government will push for tasks to improve their working conditions.Still, no trainee doctors have submitted a letter of resignation, Park told reporters.In a bid to block the potential strike, the health ministry ordered training hospitals to reject a collective submission of letters of resignation from residents, to block them from carrying out the strike as non-medical personnel by law.

Unless they step down legally as doctors, the residents must return to work if the government issues an administrative order because doctors are classified as essential workers.Earlier in the day, Park told MBC radio that the ministry will fully expand telemedicine services and mobilize assistant nurses if a major association of trainee doctors pushes ahead with a nationwide strike in protest of the medical school enrollment hike.The government has prepared to cope with the looming strike by trainee doctors, including plans to use military and public hospitals to respond to emergency medical services, Park said.Although the government says the hike in the medical enrollment quota is needed to address a shortage of doctors in rural areas and essential medical fields, doctors say such a hike may aggravate problems associated with an oversupply of medical personnel in the market.Also on Thursday, the Korean Medical Association (KMA), another major lobbying group of doctors, plans to hold nationwide rallies to protest against the planned hike in medical school enrollment quota.The KMA, which has threatened to stage a nationwide strike, is set to hold a meeting Saturday to discuss its actions.Meanwhile, Park Dan, the head of the Korea Intern Resident Association, said he will step down next week as a doctor and the association’s head to protest against the planned hike.In another sign of simmering tension, fourth-year students of the college of medicine at Hallym University in the eastern city of Chuncheon unanimously agreed to take a leave of absence for one year in an effort to prevent the government’s “medical reform for the worse.”A major association of medical schools will also carry out a survey of whether to join the move and take a one-year leave of absence and will make a decision “within a few days.”Members of the group, mostly students of 40 medical schools nationwide, have discussed what to do in response 스포츠토토존 to the government’s decision. 

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