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More med professors to take day off each week while govt. urges them to stay

By Choi Jeong-yoon

Published : April 26, 2024 - 17:06

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Amid the ongoing standoff between doctors and the government, a doctor sits in a hospital in Daegu on Friday. (Yonhap) Amid the ongoing standoff between doctors and the government, a doctor sits in a hospital in Daegu on Friday. (Yonhap)

With concerns only deepening over the disruption of the health care system in South Korea, amid the standoff between doctors and the government continuing for 10 weeks over the government's plan to hike the medical school enrollment quota, medical professors at the country's "big five" hospitals decided on Friday to suspend treatment for one day a week.

Professors at St. Mary's Hospital said they will join the suspension of treatment following professors at Seoul National University Hospital, Severance Hospital, Seoul Asan Hospital and Samsung Medical Center, which have already made their one-day-a-week absence official.

However, all five hospital faculties will maintain care for patients in emergency or critical condition, as well as inpatient care.

The government expressed regret over the professors' decision to take a weekly day off as "trainee doctors are vacant at medical sites for over two months."

Regarding more professors joining the movement to offer their resignations, the ministry said such actions have not yet impacted medical services at hospitals.

"Only a few resignations have been formally submitted to the universities and we understand that none are scheduled to be accepted," said Jeon Byung-wang, in charge of health care policy at the Ministry of Health and Welfare, at a Friday briefing.

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo also pleaded with medical professors to remain at their workplaces and with their patients.

"I earnestly implore the professors. Please continue to stand by the patients as you have done so far, and please persuade your students to return now," Han said during a meeting with government officials on Friday.

Professors from some 20 medical schools nationwide are to hold their ninth general meeting online, where they will discuss whether to take a weekly day off starting next week, as their exhaustion due to overwork has reached a limit both mentally and physically, officials said.

They have been covering for trainee doctors who walked out in protest against the government's plan for medical reforms two months ago.

Should the decision to suspend treatment regularly for one day a week be made at Friday's meeting, the actual day for treatment to be suspended would be decided depending on the situation of each hospital.

Professors at Seoul National University Hospital and Severance Hospital have already decided to take a day off on Tuesday next week. The Severance Hospital professors have said they will take one day off a week until the end of May.

SNU Hospital's emergency committee will discuss whether the one-day-per-week suspension will be taken regularly next month.

Seoul Asan Hospital and Ulsan University Hospital announced they will suspend general patient treatment and surgery on May 3, in accordance with the situation in each department.

"We conducted a survey and found that professors are complaining of severe mental and physical exhaustion due to overwork. In order to take time to reorganize for their health and well-being, we have decided to take a break from seeing patients as a group on the third of next month," said the emergency committee of Ulsan National University Hospital on Friday.