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Medical residents leave hospitals amid gov’t orders

Posted February. 20, 2024 07:47,   

Updated February. 20, 2024 07:47


Medical residents (including interns) at large hospitals across the country submitted a group resignation letter on Monday in protest to the government's expansion of medical school admissions quota. Residents at Severance Hospital and Daejeon St. Mary's Hospital also stopped working. The government issued a ‘maintenance order’ to more than 13,000 medical residents across the country, warning, “There will be corresponding consequences when leaving the hospital.”

Large hospitals postponed scheduled surgeries and hospitalizations as residents departed. “We have around 200 surgeries performed a day, but 20 were postponed on Monday and 70 on Tuesday,” said an official with Samsung Seoul Hospital. Severance Hospital, where most residents have left, announced that it “cannot accept first-time patients.”

As previously announced, many residents who submitted resignations will stop working from 6 a.m. on Tuesday, signaling the possible start of a medical crisis. “Some said that neurosurgery and intensive care units, where emergency surgeries such as cerebral hemorrhages are performed, should remain, but in the end, we agreed to leave the hospital together,” said a third-year surgical resident at a university hospital in the Seoul Metropolitan area. The move was encouraged by full-time doctors (fellows) and professors.

The government decided to implement emergency medical treatment measures on Tuesday, which included opening emergency rooms of 12 military hospitals across the country to private sector patients and extending public hospital treatment hours to weekday evenings and weekends. If the situation grows serious, telemedicine, which is partially permitted, will also be approved for full use.

President Yoon Suk Yeol held a weekly meeting with Prime Minister Han Duck-soo at the Yongsan Presidential Office on Monday and asked to “make every effort to protect the lives and health of the people.” The Ministry of Justice and the police announced that it will take strong measures against the medical strike, including arresting the instigator.

Sung-Min Park min@donga.com