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Yoon offers to jointly discuss next year's medical budget with doctors

March 26, 2024 - 21:35 By Yonhap
President Yoon Suk Yeol (left) listens to the chief of the cardiovascular center at Hankook General Hospital in Cheongju, 112 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Tuesday in this photo provided by his office. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol offered Tuesday to jointly discuss next year's medical budget with the medical community, his office said, amid a protracted walkout by junior doctors protesting an increase in the medical school enrollment quota.

Yoon instructed his aides to make the proposal to the medical community after he held a meeting with medical staff at Hankook General Hospital in Cheongju, 112 kilometers southeast of Seoul, according to Lee Do-woon, senior presidential secretary for public relations.

"Only after setting the budget for the health and medical sector will we be able to adjust nonessential expenditures and determine the scope of expanding regional medical infrastructure, strengthening compensation for essential medical services, and research and development projects," Yoon was quoted as saying during the meeting.

Yoon also vowed to place top priority on investments in the health and medical sector when drawing up the budget, and urged medical staff on the front lines to come forward for talks with the government.

Since Feb. 20, more than 90 percent of the country's 13,000 trainee doctors have been on strike in the form of collective resignations, leading to serious disruptions in hospital operations that rely heavily on interns and resident doctors.

During a Cabinet meeting earlier in the day, Yoon urged medical professors to persuade the trainee doctors to return to work as soon as possible.

Medical professors have demanded the government first scrap the decision to increase the medical school quota by 2,000 from the current 3,058, saying it would sit down for talks with the government only if the plan is abolished.

"I hope medical professionals, including medical professors, will actively engage in dialogue with the government for medical reform," Yoon said in televised opening remarks.

Yoon emphasized once again that increasing the medical school enrollment quota is a necessary minimum measure to address the anticipated shortage of doctors.

Despite threats of a general strike from the largest doctors' group, the government earlier announced that 82 percent of the additional 2,000 medical school seats will be allocated to 27 universities outside the broader capital region.

"The minimum necessary conditions for medical reform have been established with the confirmation of the medical school expansion plan by each university," Yoon said.

Yoon said a presidential committee comprising experts from different sectors, including the medical community, will be launched this month to discuss details of the government plan. (Yonhap)