Problems with Doctors' Demands

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Problems with Doctors' Demands

A breakthrough for dialogue seems near between doctors and the government. Doctors put forth a proposal to the government that calls for drastic changes in the system, and the government seems willing to negotiate. The medical strike needs to end quickly. Patients and their families are suffering anguish and anxiety. Doctors have summarized their long-held demands; now is the time for them to come to the table.

We urge both the government and doctors to drop the rancor and sit for some serious dialogue. They must build a new healthcare system befitting the times and benefitting the public. The new framework should expand the social security net and effect market principles at an adequate level.

Of the doctors' demands, the government must embrace what needs to be accepted. Tasks that call for mid- or long-term study should be carefully examined in order to draw up a healthcare blueprint. The spokesman of the Korean Association of Interns and Residents said, helpfully, that they are “well aware that many of our demands are long-term tasks that cannot be resolved immediately." Unrealistic policies and drastic reforms induce catastrophes.

In this context, we will point out some problems in the doctors' demands. It is too much to ask the government to pay malpractice compensations from public funds. Doctors can be responsible for medical mistakes once insurance payments to doctors are made realistic and doctors' fees are scaled according to the quality of care. Medical malpractice should be settled either by insurance or by monthly deposits in a doctors mutual association.

Also, it is unreasonable for doctors to demand the number of medical students to be slashed 30 percent. This would need a public consensus within a new healthcare framework.

Additionally, it is problematic to demand the installation of a Healthcare Policy Office, headed by a doctor, within the Ministry of Health and Welfare. If a doctor is the final decision-maker for health policies, it smacks of undue influence by an interest group and a lack of expertise in administrative affairs. Doctors can be represented in the position of a bureau-chief-level oversight official or by the legal lobbying or public relations efforts of medical associations.

Doctors demand the exclusion of drugstores from the list of healthcare institutions and the ban on substitute prescriptions. Idealism and principles notwithstading, these are difficult tasks to tackle, for pharmacists push forth opposite demands.

The government and medical circles should immediately commmence dialog and agree on basic points. A new system is essential for public health; it is good to recognize, however, the realistic obstacles and then set a course with ample preparations and gradual implementations.

by Lee Sang-on

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