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Medical strike expected against Nursing Act next week

Posted April. 29, 2023 08:03,   

Updated April. 29, 2023 08:03


Medical groups protesting the passage of the Nursing Act and the amendment to the Medical Act have announced a strike. In response, the government has issued a healthcare disaster crisis “attention” stage. Some experts predict that the partial strike of health and medical organizations, which is scheduled to begin next week, could potentially exacerbate the ongoing medical crisis.

On Friday, the Ministry of Health and Welfare held an emergency situation review meeting to discuss ways to minimize confusion in the medical field. The meeting was called in response to the upcoming partial strike by the Health and Welfare Medical Solidarity, a group of 13 healthcare-related groups, including the Korea Medical Association and the Korean Licensed Practical Nurses Association. The group plans to shorten treatment hours for three or four days. Healthcare disaster crisis levels are categorized into attention, caution, warning, and serious. The attention level is the lowest level of the crisis stage system used to manage situations and check treatment measures in preparation for strikes and suspensions of healthcare-related organizations.

The Health and Welfare Medical Solidarity is a coalition of healthcare workers with a total membership of 4 million. The group includes doctors, nursing assistants, caregivers, and emergency medical technicians, and others. They are currently advocating for the exercise of the presidential veto and considering a massive strike.

Under the current medical law, the Minister of Health and Welfare has the authority to issue a “business start order” when medical personnel stop treatment without justifiable grounds, or when medical institution founders collectively close or shut down their businesses, resulting in significant disruption to patient care. However, nursing assistants and emergency medical technicians are not considered medical personnel under the Medical Act, so they cannot be ordered to return to work. There are concerns that a strike by healthcare workers could potentially result in a medical crisis. “We plan to announce the scale of participation in the upcoming partial strike on Tuesday, along with the start date of the general strike," said an official from the Health, Welfare, and Medical Solidarity.

If the strike begins in full force, there is a high possibility that discussions surrounding various medical issues, including the expansion of the quota of medical schools and the expansion of essential medical care, will be affected. It is currently unclear whether or not the Korea Medical Association will attend the Council of Ministers meeting scheduled for Thursday. “I understand the importance of attending the council," an official from the association said. "But since Thursday, Lee Pil-soo, the president of the Korea Medical Association, has been engaging in a hard-line struggle, such as going on a hunger strike.”