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Doctors should return to hospitals and engage in dialogue

Doctors should return to hospitals and engage in dialogue

Posted February. 21, 2024 07:38,   

Updated February. 21, 2024 07:38


Medical residents, key resources at large hospitals across the country, submitted a mass resignation letter in protest to the government's plan to increase medical school student quota and stopped treatment starting Tuesday. According to government statistics, about half of the 13,000 residents working at 221 teaching hospitals across the country submitted letters of resignation, of which 1,630 left. The government remains unwavering in its hard-lined response, asserting that medical licenses will be suspended if the doctors do not return to work.

The mounting conflict between the government and the medical community is resulting in canceled surgery for critically ill patients and paralyzing emergency rooms. Asan Medical Center in Seoul put up a sign saying that emergency room treatment is not available aside from patients suffering from cardiac arrest. Regional hospitals have also joined the move, starting with the emergency room and trauma center at Ulsan University Hospital. A sepsis patient in Incheon barely managed to get treated at the National Medical Center in Seoul after calling 25 hospitals. Leg amputations could not be performed, while a mother pregnant with twins waits in panic because her cesarean section has been postponed. It is shocking to see doctors, who know better than anyone else what will happen if they leave the medical scene, walk away.

The government says it will not back down and will act in accordance with the law and principles. Previously, the government did not respond actively to the three rounds of doctors' strikes, possibly fueling the pride that ‘the government cannot defeat doctors.’ However, the government’s firm response alone is not enough to prevent immediate casualties. The government argues that it has discussed the matter of increasing medical school quotas through 28 rounds of legislative council meetings. At the same time, doctors deny the claim, saying that the quota increase of 2,000 is a one-sided argument by the government. Doctors should return to work in emergency and operating rooms, and the government should devise a way to engage in dialogue with doctors.

Increasing the number of medical students is gaining momentum, as 40 medical school deans suggested an alternative approach to increase on the grounds that the abrupt increase would make it difficult to provide an adequate education. Both sides are aligned on the need to strengthen essential health services. We look forward to reducing the gap in views and seeking common ground. Playing the chicken game to see who sticks it out to the end is a foolish approach that should be avoided by stakeholders responsible for public health.