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PM urges doctors to return to work by Thursday

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo called on trainee doctors who have resigned en masse over the government’s decision to hike the medical school admission quota to return to work Wednesday, a day ahead of the back-to-work deadline set by the government.

Han made the remarks during a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, reiterating that none of the thousands of striking doctors will be held accountable over the collective action if they return to work by Thursday, as their walkout entered its ninth day.

“Doctors leaving their patients cannot be understood or tolerated for any reason whatsoever,” Han said, noting that a prolonged walkout will cause bigger inconveniences for patients and their families, and burden medical workers remaining at hospitals.

“This request for return is not for punishment,” Han said. “I earnestly request that they listen to the pleas of the people and the government, and return to their jobs of guarding the lives of patients before it’s too late.”

ring the meeting, Han discussed with officials allocating contingency expenses to minimize a health care vacuum caused by the walkout by hiring substitute workers and compensating remaining doctors for working extra hours.

According to the health ministry, over 10,000 trainee doctors from major teaching hospitals in Seoul and elsewhere have submitted their resignations, with nearly 9,000 of them not reporting for work.

Hospitals have continued to face disruptions, canceling or postponing nonessential procedures and turning away non-emergency patients to prioritize severe emergency cases.

However, more junior doctors, who play a vital role in assisting with surgeries and emergency services, are expected to join the protest, with new medical school graduates reportedly refusing to take internships.

The government argues that the country needs to train more doctors to meet the challenges posed by a rapidly aging society, pointing to examples of other major developed countries facing physician shortages.

ever, striking doctors argue that there are already enough physicians and that increasing the quota of medical students would lead to unnecessary medical costs. They further claim that the plan fails to address issues, such as overburdening and the lack of incentives for doctors specializing in pediatrics, and other essential health care services.

Source: Yonhap News Agency