S Korea trainee doctors stage walkout against medical school quotas

The government wants to boost medical school admissions by 2,000 from the 2025 academic year

By REUTERS
February 21, 2024
Medical staff are seen at a university hospital in Seoul. — AFP/File

SEOUL: More than 1,600 trainee doctors in South Korea’s major hospitals staged a walkout on Tuesday to protest against a government plan to admit more students to medical schools, stoking fears of delays to surgical operations and patient treatment.

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The government wants to boost medical school admissions by 2,000 from the 2025 academic year, against a current annual figure of about 3,000, and eventually add 10,000 more by 2035.

In protest, about 6,400 of the 13,000 doctors and interns at large hospitals handed in resignations and some 1,630 of them had left by 11 pm on Monday, the health ministry said.

Adding medical school places is key to improving access to basic healthcare in remote areas and developing cutting-edge technologies, President Yoon Suk Yeol told a cabinet meeting.

“It is a task of the times that can no longer be delayed,” he added.

The industrial action came despite a government order for the doctors to stay at work, and major hospitals said they were altering surgery schedules and patient appointments.

Park Ki-joo, 65, said the walkout forced him to stay overnight in Seoul with his 9-year-old daughter, who was due for neck surgery at a major hospital.

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