UPDATE : Monday, September 7, 2020
HOME Hospital
Government threatens to imprison doctors who defy return-to-work order
  • By Kwak Sung-sun
  • Published 2020.08.28 14:54
  • Updated 2020.08.28 14:54
  • comments 0

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said it has extended the order nationwide asking junior doctors to call off a strike and return to work. The ministry also reported to police 10 trainee physicians who defied the government’s order to return to work.

The government has toughened the response to the medical community’s ongoing walkout. Not only the health and welfare ministry but the Ministry of Justice and the National Police Agency vowed to sternly punish doctors striking amid the Covid-19 crisis, at a joint briefing at the government complex in Seoul on Friday.

At the briefing, Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Gang-lip said the government has extended the executive order on interns, residents, and fellow doctors to resume work from greater Seoul to the entire nation as of 10 a.m. on Friday. The government would inspect major 30 hospitals across the country to check their compliance, he added.

National Police Agency Deputy Commissioner-General Song Min-heon, from left, Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Gang-lip, and Vice Minister of Justice Koh Ki-young hold a joint briefing in Seoul, Friday.

Earlier in the day, the government accused 10 trainee doctors and fellow physicians of failing to implement the government’s order issued on Wednesday.

According to the health and welfare ministry, 358 doctors at 20 hospitals refused to resume work on Thursday but the ministry decided to take legal action against only 10 doctors who were supposed to work at emergency rooms, after considering various circumstances.

However, the government investigated hospitals for two days from Wednesday and learned that more than 80 doctors came back to work.

“If doctors insist taking an extreme method such as a collective walkout even though we can resolve the issue through dialogue, the public will find it difficult to trust them,” Vice Minister Kim said at the briefing. “I hope doctors make a wise choice so that the people do not lose trust in them.”

Kim said the government kept trying to have a dialogue with the medical community. Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo listened to the opinions of senior leaders of the medical sector on Thursday and formed a consensus that the doctors’ strike was a grave matter.

“We’re trying to resolve the problem through unofficial channels, too,” Kim said.

Aware of the possibility that medical university professors could join the strike, Kim hoped that doctors, professors, and all workers at hospitals do not forget that hospitals exist to provide medical services for patients.

“The government will operate the emergency medical system as much as possible to prevent possible gaps in healthcare services and protect the lives and safety of the people while taking all measures that can be taken if necessary,” he said.

Kim made it clear that the government did not delay the schedule for the state medical licensing exam but was fully preparing it so that applicants can take it as scheduled.

The Ministry of Justice and the National Police Agency emphasized to take strict measures against doctors’ strike.

Vice Minister of Justice Koh Ki-young said even if doctors submit a resignation as a means of collective action against the government’s plan to increase medical school students, the government can legally order them to return to work.

“Those who defy the return-to-work order without an adequate reason can face up to three-year imprisonment or a maximum penalty of 30 million won ($25,330),” Koh said.

The government can also punish junior doctors who turn their phones off to avoid receiving the text message of the order to resume work, he noted.

Song Min-heon, deputy commissioner-general of the National Police Agency, said the NPA’s local branches will directly investigate the doctors’ walkout. The local police agencies’ intelligent crime investigation units will hunt down those who commit serious illegal activities such as leading a strike, he warned.


<© Korea Biomedical Review, All rights reserved.>

Other articles by Kwak Sung-sun
iconMost viewed
Comments 0
Please leave the first comment.
Back to Top