[EDITORIALS]Ill-timed strike by doctorsDoctors are preparing to go on strike. The Korean Medical Association has announced doctors will walk out Wednesday because the government has not accepted their demands, including reconsideration of the new medical guidelines that ban doctors from selling drugs and pharmacists from writing prescriptions. The association said doctors will refuse to treat outpatients only on the day of the strike and they will, instead, donate blood and provide free medical examinations. But once again, patients are about to be driven out of hospitals, just two years after a nationwide strike by doctors in 2000.
We urge executives at the association, the leading doctors' group, to call off a strike that would help matters for neither the medical community nor the public.
The planned strike is developing into an action only by doctors who run local clinics. Major medical groups, including the Korean Hospital Association and the Korea Intern Resident Association, have announced that they will not join the work stoppage. Executive officials at the Korean Medical Association should also face the fact that many doctors at clinics are reluctant to take to the streets.
On the issue of excluding some commonly used drugs from the coverage of the state-run health insurance, which would increase medical expenses for patients, and on insurance payments to doctors that are so low that doctors often overcharge patients, the medical association might win the public's support if it presents reasonable arguements.
The government is partly responsible for the planned doctors' strike. A government-published textbook labels doctors as a selfish interest group. The government created a special committee for the development of a local medical system on Thursday, nearly one year later than it promised doctors, who went on a nation-wide strike in 2000. Recent tax audits by the National Tax Service on executive members of the Korean Medical Association may also raise suspicions that the government is targeting strike leaders. The government should take a tough stand against errant demands by doctors. But it should also think twice about taking a hard-line attitude on these issues.