Gov’t raises health care crisis level to ‘serious’

The government raised its four-scale health care service crisis gauge to the highest level of "serious" Friday in response to the departure of doctors in their collective action against the planned increase in the medical school admission quota. In an effort to minimize the impact from the walkout, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said the government will extend the operating hours of all public medical institutions on weekdays while also expanding their weekend operations as well. "First, we will elevate the operational level of public health care institutions to the maximum," Han said during a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters involving officials from related ministries. "We will extend the operating hours of all public health care institutions to the fullest extent possible on weekdays, and we will also expand services for weekend and holiday consultations," he said. More than 8,000 trainee doctors have walked off the job in protest against the government plan to admit more students to medical schools. The walkout, which started Tuesday, has prompted major general hospitals to cancel surgeries and turn away patients seeking emergency care.