Patients go through nightmarish experiences due to trainee doctors’ strike

The nation's medical service vacuum caused by mass resignations by trainee doctors is becoming increasingly serious, forcing many emergency patients to travel several hundreds of kilometers to see an ER doctor after being denied treatment at strike-hit general hospitals. Such a nightmarish story actually occurred to a 60-something diabetes patient living in Yangyang, a coastal Gangwon Province town, 150 kilometers northeast of Seoul, on Wednesday. The patient suddenly had severe necrosis in his right leg and called the 119 emergency hotline for help at around 11:30 a.m., according to the Gangwon Fire Headquarters. The 119 team contacted Gangneung Asan Hospital, one of the largest medical centers in the adjacent city of Gangneung, but the hospital recommended transferring the patient to another hospital saying there were no trainee doctors in its emergency room. As all other major hospitals in Gangneung and nearby Sokcho reacted similarly, the 119 team began contacting hospitals in Wonju, some 90 km southe ast of the capital. After traveling several hundreds of kilometers and spending three hours and 30 minutes, the patient was only able to receive treatment at Wonju Severance Christian Hospital at around 3 p.m. The situation is similar in other parts of the country Thursday, as general hospital trainee doctors nationwide stayed away from their jobs for the third day in protest of the government's plan to hike the medical school enrollment quota. As of Wednesday night, 74.4 percent, or 9,275, of all interns and resident doctors resigned and 8,024 of them left their jobs despite the government's return-to-work order. Most emergency rooms in general hospitals across the country were operating at reduced capacity, focusing only on seriously ill patients. In the southeastern city of Ulsan, a cancer surgery patient was denied admission into a general hospital and another cancer patient remained neglected though his urinary tract was broken during chemotherapy. In the southern port city of Busan, general hospital s reduced surgeries by 30 percent and many of them suspended outpatient appointments. St. Vincent Hospital in Suwon, 30 km south of Seoul, stopped making new outpatient appointments in major departments, such as orthopedics, and is pushing back some surgery schedules. With most of the striking trainee doctors refusing to heed the return-to-work order, specialists and nurses have reportedly been struggling to fill the medical service vacuum through extended overtime and other means. Source: Yonhap News Agency