South Asia and Beyond

South Korea: Doctors Strike Against Government Plan To Hike Medical seats

Over 7,000 South Korean doctors strike work over government plans to increase the number of medical seats
 South Korea: Doctors Strike Against Government Plan To Hike Medical seats

Over 7000 doctors in South Korea are on strike over government plans to increase the number of medical students to fill posts in remote areas. The government considers this essential given the growing demands on healthcare because of a rapidly ageing population.

Reuters reports from Seoul said big hospitals were turning away patients seeking emergency care and procedures were being cancelled as the strike gathered steam. Some put up signs saying only emergency cardiac cases were being taken in. The report said four other hospitals were on red alert, meaning they were running out of beds.

The government plans to increase, from next year, the number of medical seats to 5000 from the current 3000, and then add 10,000 more by 2035. But the striking doctors say there are enough doctors, what the government needs to do is address working conditions and pay, particularly in key areas of pediatrics and emergency medicine.

But the government plan seems to have public support. The report noted that South Korea has an average of 2.6 doctors per 1000 people (total population 52 million), which is well below the benchmark of 3.7 doctors per 1000 people set by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Nitin A Gokhale WhatsApp Channel

A Gallup poll showed 76% of people backed the government’s plan to increase the number of medical students.

Others say that with general elections due in April, this is actually a political ploy to win votes. The Korea Interns and Residents Association warned that medical policies were being built “only for the sake of winning the general election”.

The government has appealed to the doctors to return to work, keeping the public in mind. Safety Minister Lee Sang-win even threatened the striking doctors with arrest.

“The police and prosecutor’s office will consult and take measures against any group or individuals who are leading collective action, including arrest and investigation.”

Surya Gangadharan

Thirty eight years in journalism, widely travelled, history buff with a preference for Old Monk Rum. Current interest/focus spans China, Technology and Trade. Recent reads: Steven Colls Directorate S and Alexander Frater's Chasing the Monsoon. Netflix/Prime video junkie. Loves animal videos on Facebook. Reluctant tweeter.