South Korea to cut trainee doctor quota unless hospitals accept resignations by next week

Seoul: The South Korean government has notified hospitals that it will reduce next year’s quota of trainee doctors unless they accept their resignations by next week, according to officials and the medical community on Tuesday.

The move is seen as a measure to put pressure on trainee doctors, who have left their worksites since late February in protest of the medical reform, to return to hospitals, Yonhap news agency reported.

A notice was sent to training hospitals on Monday, when the government announced a decision to withdraw its plan to take administrative steps, including the suspension of medical licences, against striking trainee doctors to seek a breakthrough in monthslong medical service disruptions.

If the hospitals accept the resignations of the trainee doctors by next Monday, the move is expected to help them find jobs at other hospitals.

The notice also stated that trainee doctors who reapply for the training programme starting in September will receive special treatment, such as an exemption from the rule prohibiting repeat applications to a department within the same year, the report said.

Still, it remains to be seen how many striking doctors will return to work following the government’s decision to abandon all punitive steps against them.

More than 12,000 trainee doctors, over 90 per cent of the total, have been on strike in the form of mass resignations since February 20 in protest of the government’s bid to hike medical school admissions quota.

Previously, the government had said it would cope with the prolonged walkout under the law. Still, Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong said on Monday that it is “more urgent” to end the walkout by withdrawing punitive measures against trainee doctors.

Monday’s decision has sparked criticism that it hurts the principle of fairness over the government’s handling of labour actions as doctors are allowed to go unpunished despite illegal acts, the report said.


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