Looming resignations of medical professors a concern: S. Korean health minister

Seoul: South Korea’s Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong on Monday expressed grave concerns regarding a decision by medical professors to collectively resign in support of junior doctors’ walkout that has crippled medical services for nearly a month.

About 90 per cent of 13,000 interns and resident doctors have stayed off the job since late February in protest of the government’s decision to increase enrollment at medical schools by 2,000 spots from the current 3,058, Yonhap news agency reported.

With the labour action by junior doctors showing little signs of backing down, the emergency committee of medical professors announced on Friday that faculty members from 16 medical schools will submit resignations en masse on March 25 in an effort to seek a breakthrough in the prolonged impasse.

“Despite the people’s concerns and the government’s repeated appeals, we express grave concern over making such an announcement,” Cho told a government response meeting.

“The people will find it difficult to comprehend their claim that they will leave patients en masse in order to seek dialogue and compromise,” he added.

The health minister urged professors to focus their efforts on persuading medical students and junior doctors to return to schools and hospitals while engaging in discussions to improve the country’s medical system.

Cho plans to meet with heads of the country’s top five hospitals later on Monday, followed by another session with administrators of state-run hospitals on Tuesday.

“We plan to monitor the overall status of the emergency medical system and listen to their difficulties,” Cho said.

Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo, meanwhile, told reporters that the government plans to revamp a scheme to help doctors in essential medical fields receive more fees from the national health insurance.

“We aim to address the negative aspects of the fee-for-service system by revamping the medical insurance programme through the adoption of a value-based payment system, ensuring its sustainability,” Park said.

Park also said the government will inject around 3 trillion won ($2.25 billion) to revitalise obstetrics and paediatrics departments, which have been hit by the country’s declining birth rates.

The government has been pushing to sharply raise the number of medical students to brace for the country’s fast-ageing population, and a shortage of physicians in rural areas and essential areas, such as paediatrics and emergency departments.

Doctors, on the other hand, said the quota hikes will undermine the quality of medical education and result in higher medical costs for patients.

They have called for measures to first address the underpaid specialists and improve legal protection against excessive medical malpractice lawsuits.


Comments are closed.