Trainee doctors set to stop work in protest over med school quota hike

SEOUL, Trainee doctors were set to walk off the job Tuesday after submitting their letters of collective resignation in protest against the government's plan to boost the number of medical students. Doctors and the government have been on a collision course over the plan to add 2,000 to the country's medical school enrollment quota next year, marking a sharp rise from the current 3,058 seats. With trainee doctors stopping work at some hospitals, some patients have already experienced delays in surgeries and other treatments. Still, no major disruption in medical service has yet occurred. On Monday, interns and resident doctors at five major hospitals, all located in Seoul, began submitting letters of resignation. They plan to walk off the job Tuesday, according to the Korea Intern Resident Association. Hospitals have been figuring out how many trainee doctors will join the collective action, but observers say more than 1,000 trainee doctors at the five hospitals will resign en masse. With the large-scal e walkouts by trainee doctors looming, the government ordered all of them to keep providing medical treatment. "We are deeply disappointed in the situation where trainee doctors are refusing to work," Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo told reporters. "We earnestly ask the doctors to withdraw their decision to resign en masse and walk off their jobs." The five major hospitals -- Asan Medical Center, Samsung Medical Center, Severance Hospital, Seoul National University Hospital and Seoul St. Mary's Hospital -- have played a key role in providing medical care for critical patients. Some 600 trainee doctors at Severance Hospital were said to have submitted their resignations and about 190 trainee doctors at Seoul St. Mary's Hospital were said to have joined the collective action. Trainee doctors at other general hospitals in Busan, Ulsan, Jeju, Gangwon Province, North Jeolla Province and Daejeon have also submitted their resignation letters. The government says the increase in the admission quota is n eeded to address a shortage of doctors, particularly in rural areas and essential medical fields, such as high-risk surgeries, pediatrics, obstetrics and emergency medicine. The number of doctors in South Korea relative to the size of the population is among the lowest in the developed world, according to health authorities. But doctors have claimed that the government has not had full consultations on the matter and that the move will compromise the quality of medical education and services. Source: Yonhap News Agency