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PM asks medical professors to cancel planned walkout

June 14, 2024 - 11:34 By Yonhap
Prime Minister Han Duck-soo (left) speaks with doctors at SNU Boramae Medical Center in southern Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo appealed to medical professors Friday to cancel their planned walkout next week, saying doctors have a "legal constraint" to protect people's lives.

Medical professors, who serve as senior doctors, at four hospitals affiliated with Seoul National University have vowed to stage a collective walkout next Monday in support of trainee doctors who have remained off the job since February in protest of a medical school enrollment hike plan.

Professors at the "Big 5" hospitals in Seoul also have stated their intention to join a mass walkout led by the Korea Medical Association next Tuesday, along with community doctors.

"It is very regrettable that in a situation where patients are desperately waiting for trainee doctors to return, senior doctors have made a decision that disregards the desperate voices of patients," Han said during an on-site inspection of SNU Boramae Medical Center in southern Seoul.

"Doctors who handle lives do not have infinite freedom but are under the necessary constitutional and legal constraints to defend the public's lives," he noted.

Han relayed the concerns shared by representatives of patients' groups during his meeting with them Thursday, saying he earnestly pleads with the professors to withdraw their plan and remain by the patients' sides.

"The government will not take any (punitive) measures if trainee doctors return even now," he said. "I earnestly ask professors to consider once again that finding a solution through dialogue with the government, while remaining by patients' sides, is the path to truly helping trainee doctors -- not staging collective action."

Despite the standoff, the government last month finalized an increase of some 1,500 seats at medical schools nationwide next year, the first such increase in 27 years. (Yonhap)