Gov’t to deploy ‘all means’ to cope with looming walkout by doctors over hike in med school enrollment quota

The government will deploy "all means" to cope with a looming walkout by a major association of medical doctors in protest of the planned hike in the enrollment quota for medical schools, a senior official said Thursday. Park Min-soo, second vice minister at the Ministry of Health and Welfare, made the remarks a day after the Korean Medical Association (KMA), a major lobby group of medical doctors, signaled a possible large-scale strike against the government's move to boost the number of medical students. "By mobilizing all means defined by law, (the government) will push for a pan-government response to protect the lives and health of the people," Park told reporters. Earlier this week, the government announced a plan to increase the enrollment quota for medical students by 2,000 next year. The medical community has strongly protested the decision, claiming it would not help solve the chronic shortages of doctors in rural areas but aggravate problems associated with an oversupply of medical personnel in the market. The government believes the increase in the medical student quota will help make up for the shortfall in the so-called "less popular" categories, like pediatrics and obstetrics. But the doctors say establishing public hospitals and offering better salaries will be more effective in encouraging doctors to work outside of the metropolitan region and at public health care facilities. In a bid to block the potential strike, the health ministry has 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. Source: Yonhap News Agency