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South Korea: Doctors at major hospitals decide to stage indefinite walkouts


Seoul, June 12
Doctors at major hospitals in the South Korean capital Seoul and its neighboring areas have decided to stage indefinite walkouts, while medical professors are expected to join a planned strike by community doctors next week.

The move came as professors at 40 medical schools were set to hold a meeting later Wednesday to decide whether or not to join the planned strike, set for next Tuesday, by community doctors.

Medical professors at four major hospitals affiliated with Seoul National University also have warned of an indefinite walkout starting Monday, Yonhap news agency reported.

Following in their footsteps, medical professors at three major hospitals of Yonsei University -- Severance Hospital, Gangnam Severance Hospital and Yongin Severance Hospital -- also voted Wednesday to stage an indefinite walkout starting June 27.

Also on Wednesday, medical professors at eight major hospitals affiliated with the Catholic University of Korea voted to join the planned strike by community doctors, demanding the government revisit the medical school admissions issue from scratch.

Under the decision, the professors, who are senior doctors at Seoul St. Mary's Hospital in Seoul and seven other affiliated hospitals across the country, will join the planned strike.

However, emergency rooms and treatment for critically-ill patients at the eight hospitals won't be affected.

Medical professors called on the government to fully cancel administrative orders imposed on junior doctors who have left worksites since late February, claiming the government's recent decision to suspend the steps still indicates that they have violated the law.

"We demand the government cancel all administrative orders issued to the trainee doctors," a committee of medical professors at the Catholic University of Korea said, noting the government should discuss the medical school quota hike from scratch.

Despite fierce protests by trainee doctors, the government finalised an admissions quota hike of some 1,500 students for medical schools late last month, marking the first such increase in 27 years.

The government has ordered community doctors to continue providing medical treatment and report to authorities if they close their businesses on the day of the strike. It will issue another order for community doctors to return if more than 30 per cent of them join the planned strike.