S Korea orders striking doctors to return to work
   Date :19-Jun-2024

S Korea orders striking doctors 
SOUTH Korean officials issued return-to-work orders for doctors participating in a one-day walkout on Tuesday as part of a protracted strike against Government plans to boost medical school admissions, starting next year. Since February, more than 12,000 trainee doctors have remained on strike amid a deepening standoff with Government officials, who want to grow the country’s number of doctors by up to 10,000 by 2035. Many reject the plan, saying schools won’t be able to handle the increased flow and that the quality of the country’s medical services would suffer. About 4 per cent of the country’s 36,000 private medical facilities, categorised as clinics, have told authorities they would participate in a one-day strike on Tuesday, according to South Korea’s Health and Welfare Ministry. The strike came a day after hundreds of medical school professors at four major hospitals affiliated with Seoul National University entered an indefinite walkout, raising concerns about disruptions in medical services.
South Korean Deputy Health Minister Jun Byung-wang said the one-day strike by clinics and the walkout by SNU-affiliated medical professors haven’t immediately caused significant problems in medical services. He accused the protracted strike of threatening to destroy a “trusting relationship between doctors and patients our society has built for long.” “We cannot allow unlimited freedom to the medical profession,” Jun said on Tuesday. “Since they benefit from a medical licensing system that limits the supply (of doctors) and ensures their monopoly of the profession, doctors must uphold their end of professional and ethical responsibilities and legal obligations under the medical law.” Under South Korean law, doctors defying return-to-work orders can face suspensions of their licenses or other punishment. Jun said they planned to request hospitals to pursue damage suits against the striking medical professors if their walkouts prolong and disrupt medical services.
He said hospitals that fail to sufficiently respond to the walkouts may face disadvantages in health insurance compensation and that the Government plans to push legal action against any hospital that cancels reserved treatments with patients without notifying them in advance. In a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, President Yoon Suk Yeol called the monthslong strike “regrettable” and warned that his Government will sternly respond to “illegal activities that abandon patients.” The striking doctors suffered a significant legal setback last month when the Seoul High Court rejected their request to block the Government plan, which would raise the yearly medical school enrollment quota by 2,000 from the current cap of 3,058. South Korea’s doctor-to-patient ratio is among the lowest in the developed world. Government officials say the country needs more doctors to cope with the fast-ageing population.