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Health ministry orders all trainee doctors to keep providing medical treatment

Feb. 19, 2024 - 11:00 By Yonhap
Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo speaks at a press briefing on Monday. (Yonhap)

The health ministry on Monday ordered all trainee doctors to keep providing medical treatment, as they moved to submit their letters of collective resignation in protest against the government's plan to boost the number of medical students.

"From now on, the government issues an order for the provision of medical treatment to be maintained by the trainee doctors at all 221 training hospitals nationwide," Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo told reporters.

Park strongly criticized collection actions by trainee doctors, describing such moves as "shocking."

Concerns have been brewing as doctors warn of a large-scale strike and other responses in opposition to the government's decision to add 2,000 to the country's medical school enrollment quota next year, marking a sharp rise from the current 3,058 seats.

The trainee doctors at the five hospitals were also set to walk off the job Tuesday, according to the Korea Intern Resident Association.

The five hospitals -- Asan Medical Center, Samsung Medical Center, Severance Hospital, Seoul National University Hospital and Seoul St. Mary's Hospital -- have played a key role in providing medical care for critical patients.

The government has pledged to sternly deal with any collective actions by doctors if they threaten the safety of patients.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo called for doctors to refrain from taking collective action.

"If doctors actually take action that results in a health care vacuum, the damage will fall on the people," Han said in a statement. "A health care vacuum resulting from a collective action is something that should never happen, as it takes people's lives and health hostage." (Yonhap)