Updated March 12th, 2024 at 13:51 IST

South Korea Government Moves to Suspend Thousands of Doctors' Licences Amid Strike

The dispute originally stems from government proposals to significantly increase the number of trainee doctors in response to shortages in rural areas.

Reported by: Sagar Kar
Doctors at a rally in South Korea. | Image:AP
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South Korea's government has taken decisive steps to address the ongoing strike by thousands of doctors, initiating procedures to suspend the medical licences of those participating in the month-long dispute. The move comes amidst mounting concerns that the strike is severely impacting frontline healthcare services in the country.

The strike, involving nearly 12,000 doctors from 100 teaching hospitals, has resulted in surgery cancellations, extended waiting times, and delays in treatment, including for patients requiring emergency care, as per a report from The Guardian.

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Here is what you need to know

According to the health ministry, measures have been put in place that could lead to the revocation of licences for approximately 4,900 striking doctors if they persist in defying orders to return to work. Additionally, administrative notifications have been issued, following previous warnings, indicating that strikers could face a three-month suspension, potentially delaying their ability to qualify as specialists for at least a year.

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A look at the root of the dispute 

The dispute originally stemmed from government proposals to significantly increase the number of trainee doctors in response to shortages in rural areas and heightened demand for services due to South Korea's rapidly ageing population. However, the striking doctors, who represent 93% of the trainee workforce, argue that the recruitment of an additional 2,000 students annually from 2025 would compromise the quality of healthcare services. 

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Instead, they have called for improvements to pay and working conditions. In response to the strike, the health ministry has announced plans to deploy 20 military surgeons and 138 public health doctors to bolster staffing levels at selected hospitals. However, officials have refuted claims that the country's healthcare system has descended into chaos amidst the ongoing dispute.

The situation continues to unfold as both sides remain at odds over key issues, highlighting the significant challenges facing South Korea's healthcare sector and the urgent need for resolution to ensure the provision of essential medical services to the population.

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Published March 12th, 2024 at 13:51 IST