Doctors Go on Strike Against Swelling Their Numbers

  • By Kim Chul-joong, Yang Ji-ho

    August 14, 2020 13:39

    Doctors nationwide went on strike Friday led by the Korean Medical Association to protest against the government's drive to lift the cap on student numbers in medical schools.

    One in four clinics took part and resident doctors at university hospitals also went on strike.

    Doctors in emergency rooms, intensive-care units and other vital facilities will not strike, but the walkouts have raised concerns nonetheless amid the coronavirus epidemic.

    According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare on Thursday, 24.7 percent of 33,835 clinics across the nation say they would not take patients. The ministry has threatened to take action and force them to open if more than 30 percent of them close their doors.

    A woman looks at a wall plastered with signs of medical clinics in Seoul on Thursday.

    The strike was triggered by the government's announcement that it will increase admissions quotas of medical schools over the decade starting in 2022 to boost the number of students by 4,000.

    The government believes there is a dire shortage of practicing doctors, but the medical community says the problem is only that too many doctors are concentrated in a few lucrative fields like plastic surgery and dermatology.

    According to a study by the KMA, a staggering 30,000 out of 110,000 practicing doctors in Korea are cosmetic surgeons or skin doctors. That means there is a shortage of specialists in vital fields like epidemiology and trauma surgery, but the association says simply boosting student numbers will not solve the problem and the medical system needs an overhaul. 

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