• en

South Korea Deploys Military, Public Health Doctors To Strike-Hit Hospitals 

Some hospitals have been forced to turn away patients due to the ongoing strike.

South Korea is mobilizing military physicians and public health doctors to alleviate the impact of the ongoing walkout by nearly 12,000 trainee doctors from 100 hospitals. 

The strike, initiated on February 20 in protest of government reform plans, has prompted authorities to take swift measures to ensure the continued provision of medical services.

Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong announced on Sunday that 20 military surgeons and 138 public health doctors would be dispatched to 20 hospitals for a four-week period. While the number of military physicians mobilized is a fraction of the available 2,400, the move is aimed at mitigating the strain caused by the trainee doctors’ walkout.

Despite the government’s denial of a full-blown health crisis, some hospitals have been forced to turn away patients and delay medical procedures due to the ongoing strike. 

As of Friday morning, nearly 12,000 doctors across 100 hospitals remained on strike, resisting calls from authorities to return to work.

Efforts to persuade doctors to resume their duties, including warnings of potential license suspensions, have seen limited success. 

Notices have been sent to over 4,900 doctors, informing them of the possibility of license suspension if they fail to explain their actions.

Kyoo-hong emphasized on Monday that doctors returning to work before the administrative suspension of licenses would be given leniency. The government retains the authority to order doctors back to work if there is a perceived serious risk to lives and public health.

The government’s reform plan, aiming to increase annual medical school admissions by 2,000 starting in 2025, is seen as crucial to address the shortage of doctors in South Korea, one of the world’s fastest-ageing societies. 

However, the striking doctors argue that mere increases in medical students won’t resolve issues related to pay and working conditions, potentially exacerbating existing problems.

Critics have accused President Yoon Suk Yeol of politicizing the medical reforms to benefit his party in the upcoming parliamentary elections in April. 

A recent survey by Yonhap news agency revealed that 84% of respondents support adding more doctors, while 43% believe striking physicians should face stern punishment. 

Chioma Kalu

Follow us on: