Senior doctors rally to support junior officers on strike

Thousands of senior doctors rallied in Seoul to express their support for junior doctors who have been on strike for nearly two weeks over a government plan to sharply increase the number of medical school admissions.

The rally came as the government said it would begin to take steps today to suspend the medical licences of nearly 9,000 medical interns and residents for defying government orders to end their walkouts, which have disrupted hospital operations.

“The government’s absurd medical policy has triggered immense resistance by trainee doctors and medical students, and we doctors have become one,” Park Sung-min, a senior member of the Korea Medical Association, said in a speech at the rally. “I’m asking the government: Please, stop the threats and suppression now.”

As of Thursday night, 8,945 of the country’s 13,000 medical interns and residents were confirmed to have left their worksites, according to the Health Ministry.

The government has repeatedly said they would face minimum three-month licence suspensions and indictments by prosecutors if they didn’t return by Feb 29.

The striking doctors are a fraction of South Korea’s 140,000 doctors.

But they account for about 30-40% of the total doctors at some major hospitals, where they assist senior doctors during surgeries and other treatments while training.

Their walkouts have subsequently caused numerous cancellations of surgeries and medical treatments at the hospitals.

Senior doctors have staged a series of rallies backing the young doctors but haven’t joined the walkouts.

If they also launch strikes, that would pose a major blow to South Korea’s medical service. — AP

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