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Imminent healthcare crisis looms as residents and fellows exit

Imminent healthcare crisis looms as residents and fellows exit

Posted February. 23, 2024 07:48,   

Updated February. 23, 2024 07:48


As the impasse between the government and the doctors’ group regarding the expansion of medical school admission quotas persists, concerns are mounting over potential disruptions in medical services in March. Currently, major hospitals have curtailed surgeries by 30 to 50%, implementing an emergency treatment system that prioritizes severely ill or urgent patients, in response to an ongoing exodus of interns and residents.

According to reports from various medical fields and the Ministry of Health and Welfare, a considerable number of fourth-year residents in large hospitals nationwide, concluding their training by month-end, are set to depart. Given that these residents are at the final stage of their training, a substantial portion have not left the hospitals until recently. Furthermore, many fellows, operating under one-year contracts, will also see their terms conclude by the end of this month. “A considerable number of residents and fellows are poised to depart, and there will be a critical shortage of new doctors to fill the void,” said a chief of a large Seoul hospital. “The next month will be a real crisis.”

The impending implementation of the emergency healthcare plan, involving 97 public healthcare institutions, including Seoul Boramae Hospital, is anticipated to experience strain starting next month. Cho Seung-yeon, the director of Incheon Medical Center, warned that a massive transfer of patients is expected within two to three weeks as fellows and professors from major hospitals struggle to meet demand. While hospitals are currently managing to cope, they are approaching full capacity, and soon they may be unable to meet the rising demand.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, as of Wednesday 10 p.m., 9,275 interns and residents have submitted letters of resignation across 100 nationwide teaching hospitals, accounting for 74.4% of the total. Among them, 8,024 (64.4%) have already left their positions. Despite the government’s directive to return to work, a significant number of doctors, totaling 5,596, have not resumed their duties.

Sung-Min Park min@donga.com