Gov’t presses trainee doctors who left worksites to return to hospitals

May 24, 2024

The health ministry on Friday pressed trainee doctors who left their worksites to go back to hospitals, saying their return is the “starting point” to resolve the protracted standoff over the government’s medical reform.

Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo made the remarks as a council of universities is expected to approve admission plans to boost the number of medical students, a thorny issue that prompted the mass walkout by trainee doctors, later in the day.

“We ask junior doctors to promptly return to their worksites. That is the starting point in resolving the issue,” Park told reporters, noting that their prolonged walkout is leading to anxiety among patients and their families.

About 12,000 trainee doctors have remained off the job since Feb. 20 in protest of the plan to raise the medical school admission quota.

“The government will spare no effort to provide the necessary support to ensure that junior doctors receive fair treatment as trainees,” Park added, warning that the longer the delay in their return, the more penalties they may face.

Park also asked doctors to participate in a presidential committee on medical reform launched last month to resolve the issue, although doctors have been boycotting the platform, calling for a complete abandonment of the plan.

Amid the prolonged deadlock, the government’s reform plan gained traction after a Seoul appellate court last week rejected an injunction filed by the medical community to block the hike, paving the way for authorities to proceed with the reform.

The Korean Council for University Education plans to approve the revised admission plan for next year’s freshmen later in the day, which will effectively implement the first increase in 27 years.