Hospitals Suffering as Doctors Strike in South Korea

( – In South Korea, an octogenarian suffering from a cardiac arrest reportedly died after several hospitals refused to treat her over shortages of medical staff – particularly doctors and surgeons who have staged a walk-out over a new planned government initiative aimed at addressing poor doctor to patient ratios in the country.

Around 70% of junior doctors in the country have gone on strike, protesting the government’s plan to increase the cap for medical school admissions from the current 2,000 admissions to 3,058. The striking doctors, who number at just below 9,000, say that the plan will prompt many doctors to perform overtreatment, and would not address the shortage of doctors in less popular or lower paying fields such as obstetrics, pediatrics, and emergency services, as they say many would just likely take specializations such as plastic surgery or dermatology instead.

Critics of the striking junior doctors, who comprise around 30% to 40% of the country’s doctors and serve as support to healthcare facilities’ senior doctors, say that the protesters are risking the collapse of the country’s healthcare system and are endangering patient lives. Some also say that that doctors are opposing the government’s plan as more doctors mean less competitive pay and the likelihood of lower offers and salaries.

On the government’s side, President Yoon Suk Yeol has remained stiff-necked in his response to the protests, saying that the government will push through with its plan to increase the medical school admission caps. Officials say that South Korea’s ratio of physicians to people is well below the standard for developed countries – the country has a ratio of 2.1 doctors per 1,000 people, compared to the standard of 3.7 for developed countries. The government has also warned the striking doctors to return to their jobs, or else face license suspensions and other legal penalties.

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