Gov’t announces hard-line stance against striking trainee doctors

SEOUL, The government declared a get-tough stance against striking trainee doctors Wednesday, vowing to seek arrest warrants in principle for those who spearhead the collective resignations by interns and resident doctors nationwide in protest over the planned hike in medical school enrollment quotas. The declaration was made during a joint press briefing by the justice and interior ministries, the Supreme Prosecutors Office and the Korean National Police Agency. The briefing came after a meeting of relevant government agencies and authorities was held to discuss countermeasures against the ongoing medical service disruptions. As of late Tuesday night, 71.2 percent, or 8,816, of trainee doctors had submitted their resignations and 7,813 of them walked off the job. The government said it will in principle seek arrest warrants and criminal investigations for those who instigate collective action by trainee doctors without returning to work despite its return-to-work order. Acts of interference with normal m edical treatment at hospitals or trainee doctors' return to work will also be punished severely, the government warned. Individual trainee doctors refusing to return to work will be referred to trials through formal indictment in principle, it said, hinting at leniency toward those who choose to return early despite their participation in illegal collective action. "If illegal collective action actually results in damage to the lives and health of patients, (trainee doctors) will be held accountable to the highest level," the government said. Medical institution managers who neglect their responsibility to prevent and resolve collective action by trainee doctors and thus create a vacuum in the medical system, will also be asked to hold corresponding legal liabilities, it emphasized. Source: Yonhap News Agency