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Medical disruption likely to become more serious in March

Medical disruption likely to become more serious in March

Posted March. 01, 2024 07:25,   

Updated March. 01, 2024 07:25


As of Thursday, the deadline set by the South Korean government for medical interns and residents to resume their service at hospitals, most of them are yet to return. While the government announced that it would pursue suspending medical licenses and press charges starting on Monday, a large-scale medical disruption is likely to occur in March.

According to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters on Thursday, 9,997 interns and residents (80.2 percent) submitted a letter of resignation at 100 training hospitals across the country as of 7 p.m. on Wednesday, and 9,076 of them (72.8 percent) left hospitals.

Only a small number of such interns and residents returned to hospitals. “294 interns and residents were confirmed to have returned to hospitals as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday,” said a Ministry of Health and Welfare member. “Ten out of 100 hospitals had more than 10 interns and residents returned, with one hospital having its 66 interns and residents resumed to work.” However, the so-called Big 5 hospitals – ASAN Medical Center, Seoul National University Hospital, Samsung Medical Center, Severance Hospital, and The Catholic University of Korea Seoul St. Mary's Hospital – still miss most of their interns and residents.

The government announced that those who have not returned to hospitals will be investigated, potentially have their medical license suspended, and/or be pressed with charges, starting Monday after a long weekend. Members of the Ministry of Health and Welfare will make visits to hospitals to collect evidence, confirm‎ the violation of the order to resume work, and issue an advance notification that the doctors are subject to medical license suspension. “We will follow the procedure of sending an advance notification and providing an opportunity to make a statement. We will also press charges in accordance with relevant laws and principles,” said Kim Chung-hwan, the head of the legal support team at the ministry's central disaster management headquarters.

The doctors can still return to hospitals as the government said it would reconsider applying the above measures to those who resume work during the upcoming weekend from Friday through Sunday. Large hospitals that had hoped for the return of their interns and residents are expecting a high likelihood of a medical disruption in March as a number of new interns, residents, and fellows to be appointed in early March are canceling their appointments while contracts with most residents in their third and fourth years who remained at hospitals before completing their internship or residency came to an end on Thursday. “With the termination of contracts, interns, residents, and fellows will disappear from training hospitals, starting on Friday,” the Korea Medical Association said. “The responsibility for the current situation is with the government.”

조유라 기자 jyr0101@donga.com