Medical professors to quit starting March 25 in support of doctors' walkout

Seoul, March 16 (IANS) Medical professors across South Korea have decided to submit resignations starting March 25 in collective action pressuring the government to seek a breakthrough in the prolonged walkout by trainee doctors, a medical professors’ group said on Saturday.

But even if they resign, medical professors said they will faithfully treat patients at hospitals as more than 90 per cent of the country’s 13,000 trainee doctors have walked off the job since last month to protest the government’s decision to hike the medical school enrollment quota by 2,000 seats.

The decision came at an online meeting held by medical professors from 20 universities late Friday, according to the group. In South Korea, there are 40 medical schools across the nation, reports Yonhap News Agency.

Of the 20 universities, professors from 16 medical schools “overwhelmingly” decided to submit resignations and the four others are collecting opinions over whether to join in, according to Bang Jae-seung, chief of the emergency committee of medical school professors.

“The decision does not mean that we are abandoning patients. But if the current situation continues, there will be irreversible damage to public health,” Bang told a press conference.

He said medical professors will do their best in treating patients until the process of their resignations is completed.

“We are to submit resignations to prevent a medical debacle as we think an agreement can be reached only after the government first backs down from the plan to raise the enrollment slots by 2,000,” Bang said.

Since early this week, medical professors have threatened to submit resignations en masse unless the government presents a breakthrough in the prolonged walkout. Prior to the resignation submission, the group said it plans to hold a meeting next Friday to check the development.

March 25 is the deadline by which trainee doctors are required to submit their opinions on license suspensions. The government earlier sent prior notices of license suspension to some 5,000 junior doctors who have defied an order to return to work.

The medical circle has been protesting the government’s plan to hike the medical school enrollment quota by 2,000 seats beginning next year. The government said the move is aimed at addressing a chronic shortage of doctors in rural areas and essential but less popular medical fields.

However, the doctors claimed the quota hike would undermine the quality of medical education and other services and result in higher medical costs for patients. They have called for measures to first address the underpaid specialists and improve the legal protection against excessive medical malpractice lawsuits.

The protracted walkout raised patients’ concerns that they might not receive medical treatment at an appropriate timing. Major general hospitals have been experiencing cancellations and delays in surgeries and emergency medical treatment as they heavily rely on trainee doctors.



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