Patients hit by canceled or postponed surgeries as doctors resign collectively

SEOUL, Patients waiting for urgent surgeries or treatment for serious diseases at general hospitals across the country are growing increasingly nervous about operating room paralysis and other disastrous consequences expected from mass resignations of trainee doctors angry over the government's planned hike in medical school enrollment quota. Signs of a serious medical crisis are already visible, as cancellations and postponements of urgent cancer and disc surgeries and childbirths have been reported at major hospitals in Seoul and large cities nationwide. A 65-year-old man, surnamed Park, said he was notified by Chonnam National University Hospital in the southwestern city of Gwangju on Monday that his surgery scheduled for Tuesday has been canceled. "The surgery was scheduled for tomorrow, but I suddenly received a cancellation notice today. I've waited for the surgery since July last year. How can this happen?" Park said. Online communities of cancer patients are also overflowing with posts from patie nts and their families who are angry and frustrated about delayed schedules for surgeries and other urgent treatments at major general hospitals. An online community member said he has been told by a Seoul general hospital to wait indefinitely for a surgery. "I called the hospital because I didn't receive any text massage informing me of hospitalization prior to my surgery set for Wednesday. But I heard that the surgery may be canceled even if I'm hospitalized," the member lamented. Another online community member said she was scheduled to give birth to twins by cesarean section at Seoul National University Hospital but was notified of the postponement one day before the surgery. A person vented his anger at a Seoul general hospital's decision to indefinitely put off a long-awaited cervical disc surgery for his parent, while a pregnant woman preparing to go into labor has been informed that pain-free injections are not possible during childbirth. Adding to the medical service crisis, interns and resident doctors at the country's five biggest hospitals in Seoul have agreed to walk off the job starting at 6 a.m. Tuesday. Trainee doctors make up 30 to 40 percent of the medical staff at the general hospitals. Some hospitals are asking nurses to take over tasks previously performed by trainee doctors, such as collecting blood, inserting urethral tubes and verifying patients' signatures on surgery consent forms, according to officials at the Korean Health and Medical Workers' Union. A 48-year-old woman, who visited Severance Hospital in western Seoul because of her son's kidney problems, said: "Everyone who comes to the hospital is sick. We're worried if treatment is not provided in time." A Severance Hospital official said the hospital was running its operating rooms at 50 to 60 percent of normal capacity in preparation for the mass resignations of trainee doctors. A 66-year-old man, surnamed Kang, who has been hospitalized at Asan Medical Center in southeastern Seoul for three days for treatment of liver canc er, said, "Another patient in the same ward was originally scheduled to have surgery tomorrow, but it was postponed to Friday." Kang, who lives in Gimje, 194 kilometers south of Seoul, said he is also worried that his surgery may be delayed and his hospitalization period may be prolonged. Source: Yonhap News Agency