April 22, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Doctors strike in South Korea to protest plans to add more doctors

Doctors strike in South Korea to protest plans to add more doctors

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Doctors organized marches in Seoul last week to protest the government's plan to increase numbers

The South Korean government has ordered more than 1,000 junior doctors to return to work after many of them staged strikes to protest plans to increase the number of doctors in the system.

Officials said more than 6,000 trainees and residents resigned on Monday.

South Korea has one of the lowest doctor-per-patient ratios among OECD countries, so the government wants to add more job opportunities at medical schools.

But observers say doctors are opposed to what they fear will be greater competition.

South Korea has a highly privatized healthcare system with most procedures tied to insurance payments, and more than 90% of hospitals are private.

“More doctors means more competition and lower income for them… That's why they oppose the proposal to increase the supply of doctors,” said Professor Sunman Kwon, a public health expert at Seoul National University.

He said junior doctors were opposed to the policy because they were most likely to be affected by it early in their careers.

The South Korean Ministry of Health said on Monday that 1,630 doctors did not report for work on Monday and that a larger group of 6,415 junior doctors had submitted their resignation letters. Organizers pledged to strike starting Tuesday.

The measure has raised major concerns about the country's healthcare system this week. Many hospitals have moved to emergency plans.

Yonhap News Agency reported that the strike was planned by 2,700 junior doctors, who represent more than a third of the doctors working in the country's five largest hospitals – and who form the core of the emergency department staff.

There are also concerns that this could lead to a wider strike among workers in the industry – and the protest measures have been approved by prominent representative group the Korean Resident Doctors Association (Daejeon Association) as well as the Korean Resident Trainee Association.

Doctors in South Korea are already among the highest paid in the world, with 2022 OECD data showing the average specialist doctor in a public hospital earns nearly $200,000 (£159,000) a year.

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