Gov’t repeats appeal for dialogue with doctors amid prolonged walkout

Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong once again called on doctors Monday to come forward for dialogue to end the prolonged walkout by junior doctors and present a unified proposal regarding the quota for medical school admissions, stressing its firm will to push for medical reform plans. More than 90 percent of South Korea's 13,000 trainee doctors have walked off the job in protest since Feb. 20 in protest of the government's push to increase the number of medical school seats by 2,000 starting next year from the current 3,058. "The government's will for medical reform remains strong. The medical school quota hike and other reform measures are preconditions for reviving essential medical fields and medical systems in rural areas," Cho said during a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters. "Time is running out given the schedule for the government's announcement of detailed plans and requirements for college entrance next year. The medical circle should come up with a unified propo sal swiftly based on scientific grounds," he added. The government has said it is open to talks, though it believes a hike of 2,000 is the minimum as the plan was based on scientific research and discussion with the medical community. President Yoon Suk Yeol met with the chief of a striking trainee doctors' group earlier this month, but no immediate breakthrough has been reported. Given South Korea's rapid population aging and other issues, the country is expected to fall short by 15,000 doctors by 2035. But doctors argue that the med school enrollment quota hike would compromise the quality of medical education and services and create a surplus of physicians, adding that the government must devise ways of better protecting them from malpractice suits and extending compensation to induce more physicians to practice in such "unpopular" areas. Source: Yonhap News Agency