(LEAD) Defense chief urges military hospitals to provide active support for civilian patients

SEOUL, Defense Minister Shin Won-sik on Wednesday called on military hospitals to provide active medical support to civilian patients in need as major hospitals suffer disruptions amid trainee doctors' massive walkout. Shin made the call during his visit to a military hospital in Yangju, north of Seoul, as thousands of trainee doctors staged the walkout for a second day in protest of a plan to raise the medical school admission quota. "The military exists to protect people's lives and safety. (Military hospitals) should kindly treat citizens so that they don't feel uncomfortable when using military hospitals," Shin said during a video conference with chiefs of 12 military hospitals. Shin instructed the military hospitals to assign additional medical personnel and manage staff fatigue to brace for a prolonged walkout in the civilian sector, the ministry said. The emergency rooms of military hospitals nationwide opened their doors to the public in full scale Tuesday to allay public health concerns over emer gency services. So far, 10 civilian patients have been treated at military hospitals, according to the ministry. While the hospital emergency rooms have been accepting civilians before the doctors' collective action, they have been difficult to access due to security procedures. Source: Yonhap News Agency