Trainee doctors likely to join practitioners' strikeTrainee doctors at general hospitals said Tuesday they are likely to again launch a one-day strike later this week in protest of the government's medical workforce reform plan.
The 24-hour general walkout on Friday is being organized by the Korea Medical Association (KMA) —which speaks for 130,000 doctors— in opposition to the government's plan to raise admission quotas at medical schools. Most clinical doctors' offices in neighborhoods are expected to be closed.
A survey by The Korean Intern Resident Association (KIRA), a group of interns and resident doctors, showed that 95 percent of its some 7,000 members said they would participate in the planned walkout.
The planned walkout comes after trainee doctors' 24-hour walkout last Friday.
As part of the country's medical workforce reform plan, the health ministry is planning to expand admission quotas at medical schools by 4,000 over the next 10 years, starting in 2022, and to open a new public medical school as it seeks to broaden the reach of health care services.
This will increase the number of students admitted annually to medical schools to 3,458 in the 2022-2031 period from the current 3,058, according to the plan.
Doctors have opposed what they called the government's "hasty and unilateral" decision.
The health ministry said on Tuesday it will soon announce its stance on the planned walkout.
"The government is preparing so that there is no setback in providing medical service. The announcement will be made before Thursday at noon," said Kim Heong-ju, a health ministry official. "We are continuing negotiations with the KMA."
The government earlier warned it would take stern actions if the walkout caused harm to people's health and safety.
Last Friday's strike had spawned concerns about a potential disruption in the health care system as trainee doctors working in general hospitals' essential fields, including intensive care units, surgery and emergency rooms, joined the strike.
But major general hospitals avoided major problems in treating patients as they mobilized clinical doctors, medical professors and other health workers in advance to reduce possible disruptions.