Gov’t renews call for doctors to come to dialogue amid protracted walkout

The health ministry urged the medical community Thursday to come forward for dialogue to resolve the monthslong walkout by trainee doctors, though there seems to be no sign of any immediate breakthrough as neither side has budged an inch. "The door for dialogue still remains open, and the government is ready to have talks at any time regardless of the format and subjects," Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong said during a meeting on the walkout by trainee doctors. "I hope the medical community stops conflicts and confrontation and joins discussions for medical reform," he added. A majority of around 12,000 trainee doctors in South Korea have been off the job since Feb. 20 in protest of the government's plan to raise the medical school admission quota. The Korean Medical Association said Wednesday that it is ready to sit down for talks with the government, without elaborating further. The government welcomed the move but stressed that it cannot accept such preconditions presented by doctors as revisiting the qu ota increase plan from scratch or the postponement of the plan by one year. Amid the prolonged walkout, the government vowed to continue to beef up the emergency medical response system to minimize disruptions to the services for emergency patients and critical cases, and to set up a regular communication channel with patients' groups.