South Korean government on back foot, kneels in front of doctors; know the whole matter

Seoul: South Korea said on Monday that it will withdraw its earlier plan to suspend the licenses of doctors on strike, to end the long-running deadlock with doctors in the country. It is not yet clear how many thousand doctors on strike will return to work after the government’s announcement. Health Minister Cho Kyo Hong said on Monday that the government has decided not to suspend the licenses of the striking doctors, whether they return to work in their hospitals or not.

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Impact on the functioning of hospitals
The Health Minister said that the aim of the government’s decision is to deal with the shortage of doctors treating emergency and critically ill patients. More than 13,000 junior doctors working as medical trainees and residents have been on strike since February in protest against the government’s plan to increase admissions in medical colleges. Their strike has greatly affected the functioning of hospitals.

Court ruling in support of government
The strike suffered a setback when a Seoul court ruled in favor of the government’s plan in May. The government later withdrew its plan to suspend the licenses of doctors who returned to work at its hospitals but took no such action for those who did not. Officials say the government wants to recruit 10,000 doctors by 2035 to deal with the country’s rapidly aging population and a shortage of doctors in rural areas.

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Doctors say medical colleges are not equipped to deal with the rapid increase in students and this will eventually affect the country’s medical services. But critics say doctors, one of the highest-paid professions in South Korea, are mainly worried that the arrival of more doctors will reduce their income.