Patients’ frustration grows as trainee doctors stop work for 6th day

Hospitals across the nation continued to grapple with ongoing disruptions to their daily operations Sunday as junior doctors extended their mass walkout for the sixth consecutive day in protest against the government's proposed hike in the number of medical students. Thousands of intern and resident doctors in major general hospitals in Seoul and elsewhere have walked off the job since last Tuesday in opposition to the government's plan to admit 2,000 more students to medical schools next year from the current 3,058 seats to address a shortage of doctors. Throughout the weekend, major hospitals experienced delays in their operating schedules, prompting even patients in critical condition to seek care at smaller medical facilities. Some hospitals adjusted their intensive care unit schedules from three shifts to two due to the shortage of on-duty doctors. Recent graduates of medical schools also vowed to refuse the commencement of their internships, dashing expectations that they could fill the gap left by trainee doctors who exited hospitals. The lingering walkout came despite the government's stern warning that those leading the collective action could face arrest and those involved in a strike could have their medical licenses canceled. On Friday, the government raised its four-scale health care service crisis gauge to the highest level of "serious" in response to the departure of doctors. The government claims the increase is necessary to address a shortage of doctors, particularly in rural areas and essential medical fields, such as high-risk surgeries, pediatrics, obstetrics and emergency medicine. Doctors, however, argue that the government should rather focus on protecting them from malpractice suits and improving compensation to induce more physicians to practice in such unpopular areas. Meanwhile, the Korean Medical Association, the biggest lobbying group of doctors, plans to convene a meeting later Sunday to discuss their course of action, according to medical sources. Source: Yonhap News Agen cy