Labor and civic groups intensely criticized the government for agreeing with striking doctors to put on hold the plan to increase medical school admissions and establish a public medical school.
A total of 176 labor and civic groups held a news conference in front of Cheong Wa Dae on Friday to demand scrapping the pact, announced earlier in the day between the Korean Medical Association and the ruling Democratic Party.
Hyun Jeong-hee, head of the medical solidarity division of the Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union, conceded that the government had to reflect doctors’ opinions in healthcare policies.
However, suppose the government yields to physicians taking collective action even when doctors do not represent the entire healthcare sector. In that case, the government’s healthcare policies will be “swayed” continuously by physicians.
Hyun called for the government to secure a larger budget for state-run hospitals, instead of searching to make profits through medical institutions. “The government must secure more intensive care units and manpower at public hospitals, and improve working conditions for employees,” she said.
Park Ki-young, general secretary of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, a major labor umbrella group in the nation, said the plan to secure more doctors and set up a new public medical school was an outcome of a tripartite agreement among labor, management, and the government.
“Throwing away the social consensus and going back to square one is virtually equal to ignoring the tripartite agreement and damaging the meaning of social dialogue,” he said.
A particular association should not resolve the issue of expanding the public healthcare service but a wider consultation body that includes labor groups, he added.
The latest deal between the medical community and the government showed that the government gave in to threats by doctors who took patients as a hostage during the nationwide strike, civic groups said.
As citizens' safety is in danger due to the unprecedented pandemic crisis, the nation needs more reform and workforce in public healthcare than ever, they said.
Under such a dire situation, however, the government and the ruling party threw in the towel and gave in to the doctors’ demands without even taking one step forward in public health reform, they added.
Civic groups also condemned the Korean Medical Association for striking to keep their vested interests at the expense of the citizens’ safety and disrupting the discussion for enhancing the public healthcare sector.
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