South Korea’s doctors are planning a strike on June 18, to protest reforms

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s main doctors’ lobby group announced on Sunday that it will go on strike on 18 June to protest the Government’s Healthcare Reform Plan, defying a prime minister’s warning that such an action would damage credibility of the medical profession.

The Korean Medical Association (KMA), which claims to represent the 140,000 doctors in the country, reported that 74% of its members who took part in a poll approved “collective actions.”

Association President Lim Hyun-taek stated that the government plan would destroy the medical system in the country and do nothing about the chronic problems caused by fewer doctors practicing essential disciplines, and inadequate pay.

Lim, a representative of several medical groups, told a gathering that the Korean Medical Association will be at the forefront in the fight to save the medical system with the support of its representatives across the country.

Lim announced that members would cease work on the 18th of June and a large rally was planned.

South Korean doctors are opposed to a plan that would increase the number of students in medical schools from the current 3,000 by 2,000. The plan is a central part of the government’s healthcare reform.

On February 20, thousands of trainee doctors, including medical interns and residents, walked out from their jobs. This forced major hospitals to reduce non-emergency service and send patients back to the emergency rooms.

The government stated that the increase was necessary to compensate for a shortage of doctors, which is expected to worsen over the next few years.

The government warned the KMA just before its meeting that it should not take any actions that could put the safety of the public at risk. It said this would damage the reputation of doctors, and reduce trust in the profession.

Han Duck-soo, the Prime Minister of South Korea, said that any collective action taken by doctors is illegal and deeply regretted and reiterated the call for dialogue in order to resolve the standoff.

Han said at a press conference that “the social trust built by the medical community over decades and by patients must not collapse due to radical demands from a few individuals”.

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