(LEAD) Military hospital emergency rooms to open to public in case of doctors’ collective action

SEOUL, The military will open its hospital emergency rooms to the public if doctors stage massive collective action against the government's plan to increase medical school admissions, the defense ministry said Monday. Earlier in the day, trainee doctors nationwide began submitting their resignations as part of a protest against the government's decision to add 2,000 slots to the country's medical school enrollment quota next year from the current 3,058 seats, raising concerns it would cripple hospital operations. "If the civilian medical sector presses ahead with a strike ... our military will open the emergency rooms of 12 military hospitals, including the Armed Forces Capital Hospital, and provide support in emergency patient care," Jeon Ha-kyou, the ministry's spokesperson, told a regular briefing. Later Monday, Vice Defense Minister Kim Seon-ho visited the Armed Forces Medical Command in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, to check the preparations being made to accommodate civilian patients at the hospit als across the country. The ministry said it will consider other support measures, such as providing outpatient care and dispatching medical officers to public hospitals, based on the circumstances. Doctors and medical students have voiced opposition to the government's plan, contending that there are already sufficient physicians and that simply increasing the quota of medical students would lead to unnecessary medical care. The government argues that the country should begin training more new doctors to address the challenges posed by a rapidly aging society, citing examples of other major developed countries facing shortages of physicians. Source: Yonhap News Agency