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Teaching hospitals on edge ahead of trainee doctors’ walkout
  • By Song Soo-youn
  • Published 2020.08.04 14:49
  • Updated 2020.08.04 14:49
  • comments 0

Teaching hospitals are on high alert as interns and residents are threatening to strike on Aug. 7. Although the walkout will be just for the day, emergency rooms, intensive care units, and operating rooms will suffer a shortage of workforce, the hospitals said.

As trainee doctors recently decided to go ahead with the 24-hour walkout on schedule, teaching hospitals hurriedly discussed responses. Some hospitals said they would ask interns and residents whether they planned to join the strike and come up with a follow-up response.

Trainee physicians joined the Korean Medical Association strike on March 10, 2014, to oppose the government’s policy for telemedicine.

Most hospitals said they would have to either cancel or reduce surgeries and outpatient care on Aug. 7. Some are mulling the maximum use of specialists and nurses on the day of the strike.

A director of a university hospital in Seoul told Korea Biomedical Review that he felt cornered.

“The hospital should minimize the impact of the strike, but I can’t find any solution. We can’t help but cancel or delay the scheduled surgeries and reduce outpatient service,” he said.

An official at another university hospital said the hospital needed to work with specialists and nurses to handle the situation. He added that the hospital would first talk with trainee doctors whether they would join the strike, and discuss measures later.

Hospitals expressed concerns about the Korean Intern Resident Association’s plan to temporarily stop essential medical services at emergency rooms, ICUs, and operating rooms.

“We are talking with a representative of trainee doctors. We’re worried that they would strike essential services, too,” an official at a third university hospital said. “As we have several days left until the strike, we will have more talks to come up with measures.”

A resident at a fourth university hospital said the department heads discussed whether trainee doctors at essential care would join the strike.

“As many interns and residents as possible should participate in the walkout, but core medical service should not be paralyzed,” the trainee physician said. Doctors could first choose to join the walkout, and the minimum number of the doctors could return to work in case of emergency, he added.

Some said doctors understood why trainee physicians were unhappy about the government’s plan to increase doctors. Still, a strike as a strategy to block it might cause more losses than gains.

A university hospital professor said every local doctor would agree with the KIRA’s claims. However, a strike by doctors might fail to win the public support, as shown in the past, he added.

“The Korean Medical Association has never asked people how they thought about a strike by doctors. This is the issue that only doctors are talking about,” the professor said. “We should use a strategy that can win public support.”

The Korean Hospital Association did not make any statement regarding the trainee doctors’ strike. KHA’s support for the government’s plan to increase medical school admissions quotas came under criticism by KIRA.

“Workers have a right to strike. A strike by trainee doctors will have a significant impact, but there is no way to stop it,” KHA President Jeong Young-ho said.


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