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Trainee Doctors’ Resignations Surge in South Korea, Disrupting Healthcare System

Medical Crisis in South Korea: Trainee Doctors' Mass Resignations Rock Healthcare System.

In South Korea, a wave of resignations from trainee doctors has thrown the nation’s healthcare system into disarray, with over 70% of these medical professionals submitting their resignations amidst protests against a government proposal to expand the intake of medical students.

The absence of thousands of trainee doctors has sparked anxiety in the country’s largest hospitals, which are struggling to cope with the sudden shortage. Despite emergency measures introduced by the government, major hospitals are reporting disruptions to their operations. Patients, including a brain cancer patient whose chemotherapy has been postponed despite the cancer’s spread, and pregnant women facing canceled C-sections, are feeling the impact of the strike. The Ministry of Health has received approximately 150 complaints from the public regarding the strike’s effects.

The number of participating trainee doctors continues to grow, with Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo revealing that over 9,200 have submitted resignations, and more than 8,000 have walked off the job. With junior doctors leaving their positions en masse, nurses are left to shoulder additional responsibilities, such as signing consent forms and dressing wounds.

Amidst the strike, the Korean Young Nurses Association has publicly urged doctors to reconsider their actions, emphasizing the strain placed on nurses and the potential legal repercussions if patient care is compromised.

In response to the escalating crisis, Park Min-soo announced that authorities would not accept the resignation letters from trainee doctors, urging them to consider the consequences of their actions and the patients relying on their care.

The strike is rooted in protests against a government plan to increase the annual quota of medical students by 2,000, a move supported by the public but contested by medical professionals. Critics argue that expanding the number of doctors may diminish the field’s social status and competitive pay, with concerns raised about the impact on less popular specialties already facing shortages.

The standoff deepened as civic groups filed police reports against the striking trainee doctors and their association leaders for alleged violations of medical laws. Authorities took a firm stance, announcing plans to seek arrest warrants for strike leaders and issuing back-to-work orders to thousands of trainee doctors, threatening legal action against those who refuse to comply.

As tensions escalate between the government and medical professionals, the fate of South Korea’s healthcare system hangs in the balance, with the wellbeing of patients caught in the crossfire of this contentious dispute.

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