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Work hour limit reduces trainee doctors’ time to prepare for specialist exam

Kwak Sung-sun  Published 2019.12.31  13:33  Updated 2020.01.01 05:28

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- Top 10 Medical News in 2019 ⑩

As an online video claiming that dog dewormer fenbendazole could cure cancer went viral, cancer patients conducted “voluntary clinical trials,” trying the canine treatment on themselves in desperate hope. The medical industry had significant legal issues, including the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the 66-year-old anti-abortion law was unconstitutional. Hospitals suffered the worst shortage of physicians this year. The sudden death of Yoon Han-deok, chief of the National Emergency Medical Center, who died of a heart attack at his office, and a patient’s murder of Lim Se-won, a psychiatrist at Kanguk Samsung Hospital, have cast light on doctors’ overwork and safety issues. Amid the controversy over the appointment of Cho Kuk as the minister of justice, his daughter’s being listed as the lead author in a paper published in a medical journal during her high school time became the center of the controversy. Korea Biomedical Review has compiled the 10 biggest medical stories in 2019. —Ed.

The law capping the maximum weekly work hours to 80 for trainee doctors has caused an unexpected problem for senior residents when preparing for an exam to obtain a specialist certification.

Before the Medical Resident Act took effect, medical institutions used to allow senior residents to leave work for several months to prepare exams. After the enforcement of the law, hospitals found it difficult to do so because giving an extended break to senior residents would breach the law.

The problem created a conflict between the Korean Academy of Medical Sciences (KAMS) and Korea Intern Resident Association (KIRA). The two groups gave different interpretations regarding the criteria for annual leave, which is excluded from hospital work.

KAMS sent its official statement to 26 medical societies, explaining about the preparation period for a specialist certification test.

KAMS said that senior residents could take up to one month for annual leave, where additional medical training does not occur. Thus, residents should use their annual leave to take a training break to prepare for the exam, it said.

One month of a training break means five weeks with each week of six working days excluding paid weekly holidays, and members of the medical societies should not get a disadvantage, KAMS added.

However, KIRA said that KAMS had no decision-making authority over the exam preparation period and that it provided wrong information.

KIRA argued that one of the seven days a week is a paid holiday, and another is a non-paid holiday.

Thus, if a workday was specified as a weekday in a training contract or each hospital's regulations, trainee doctors could use five days per week as annual leave.

The law limiting the maximum weekly work hours to 80 aggravated the situation, as how much time senior residents can secure for the exam preparation depends on whether a workweek should be interpreted as five working days or six.

kss@docdocdoc.co.kr

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