‘Prolonged walkout’: Military doctors step-in as medics protest in South Korea

Amid protests and mass resignations by trainee doctors, South Korea on Wednesday asked military hospitals to fill the gaps in the health sector and provide treatment to civilian patients.

At least 10 civilian patients have already been treated by military medics as military hospitals have opened to the public, the Seoul-based Yonhap News reported.

“The military exists to protect people's lives and safety. (Military hospitals) should kindly treat citizens so that they don't feel uncomfortable," Defense Minister Shin Won-sik told chiefs of 12 military hospitals in a video call.

The minister was visiting a military hospital in Yangju, north of the capital Seoul, where he directed the military to “assign additional medical personnel and manage staff fatigue to brace for a prolonged walkout in the civilian sector.”

South Korea’s civilian hospitals are suffering disruptions in providing services to the people as thousands of trainee doctors are protesting the government’s move to increase medical seats.

However, people are also facing security issues while visiting the military hospitals.

Protesting trainee doctors, over 70% or 8,816 junior doctors, claim that the government "lacks transparency" and that the move to increase the number of medical students will "compromise" the quality of medical education and services.

Some 7,813 doctors have so far left their work sites.

The government, however, said the increase of 2,000 seats is "necessary" to address a shortage of doctors, especially in rural areas and crucial specialties.

Currently, South Korea's annual enrollment for medical seats is 3,058.

South Korea's healthcare system heavily relies on trainee doctors, especially in emergency and acute care.

To meet the needs of patients, the government extended normal working hours at the hospitals in Seoul.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt