S. As doctors protest, hospitals in Korea turn away patients

The largest hospitals in South Korea turned away patients needing emergency care on Wednesday and postponed medical operations. The actions were taken in response to thousands of medical residents’ walkouts against a government proposal to expand medical school admissions. A sign at the Asan Medical Center in Seoul stated that heart attack cases were the only ones accepted by its emergency section. Four other big hospitals’ emergency rooms were also placed on “red alert.” Thus, they were unable to accommodate any more patients. “The timing of the resident doctors’ strike is so frustrating,” a cancer patient’s sibling told the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper.

 

Since this week’s protests started, 7,813 doctors, according to the health ministry, have quit their employment. The government’s plan to raise the number of medical students is met with opposition from the professionals. The strategy seeks to address the needs of one of the fastest-aging civilizations in the world while increasing the number of health professionals in rural areas. By the 2025 academic year, the government hopes to raise the enrollment of medical students from 3,000 to 5,000. By 2035, it hopes to have added up to 10,000 more. But the demonstrators assert that there are enough doctors in South Korea. They contend that before expanding the number of medical students, the government must enhance the compensation and working conditions for physicians.

 

There were 2.6 physicians per 1,000 people in South Korea’s 52 million inhabitants in 2022. These figures are significantly lower than the industrialized countries’ average of 3.7 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants as reported by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Numerous South Koreans, according to surveys of public opinion, are in favor of the government plan. A Gallup Korea survey conducted last week revealed that roughly 76% of South Koreans support the government’s proposal to boost the number of medical students.

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