Strike against striking docs

No clucking matter: A man in a chicken mask holding a placard at a rally against the medical policy change in Seoul. — AP

THE country said it will take steps to suspend the licences of striking trainee doctors who have defied orders to return to work in a standoff over medical training reforms.

Around 9,000 junior doctors walked out nearly two weeks ago to protest against an increase in medical school admissions from next year which is meant to help combat shortages and meet the demands of an ageing society.

The striking trainees have defied a Feb 29 government deadline for them to return to work or face legal action, including possible arrest or suspension of their medical licences.

Despite repeated government appeals, the number returning to work “has been minimal”, Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo told a press conference.

“Starting today the government is enforcing legal measure,” he said, noting inspections at hospitals nationwide would be conducted starting yesterday to find out who had returned or not.

If doctors’ “absence is confirmed” from the on-site inspections, he said, the government would notify them that procedures to suspend their licences were underway.

“If they violate the government’s back to work order, a three-month-suspension is inevitable.”

Such a suspension would lead to a delay of at least a year in getting a specialisation medical certificate, he warned, and negatively affect career prospects.

As of Thursday nearly 9,000 trainee doctors, or 72% of the whole junior workforce, were on walkouts, Park said.

Only 565 doctors had resumed work by the deadline, according to figures released by the health ministry.

The mass work stoppage has taken a toll on hospitals, with crucial treatments and surgeries having to be cancelled. — AFP

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