The medical community said they would stage a nationwide strike after the government and the ruling party confirmed their plan to increase medical school admissions quotas.
Choi Dae-zip, president of the Korean Medical Association, said this year’s first nationwide strike would occur either on Aug. 14 or Aug. 18, at a news conference at the National Assembly Thursday.
The group held the news conference at 7 a.m., 30 minutes before the policy coordination meeting between the government and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea.
|Korean Medical Association President Choi Dae-zip (fifth from right) and members hold a news conference at the National Assembly on Thursday to protest the government’s plan to increase quotas for medical school admissions. (KMA)|
Choi said the KMA had warned that it would take aggressive actions, including a nationwide strike if the government kept pushing for four policies that the KMA opposed. Increasing the quotas for medical schools was one of the four. Despite the KMA’s protest, the government and the ruling party decided to expand the admission quotas by 4,000 over the next 10 years.
Choi emphasized that all the KMA member physicians should participate in the nationwide strike.
“KMA is the representative body of all Korean physicians. The nationwide strike is a must for all the doctors, including clinic owners, interns, residents, medical professors, salaried doctors, and hospital directors,” he said.
Choi said the government and the ruling party cite OECD statistics that Korea’s number of physicians per 1,000 population was lower than the OECD average. Also, the government claims that the nation needs more doctors to respond to infectious diseases and meet provincial areas' needs, he said.
However, the government had no analysis of why Korea failed to provide essential medical care and provincial care sufficiently but came up with a political, populist approach, Choi said.
“The growth pace of Korean doctors per 1,000 people is more than three times faster than that of the OECD average,” he said. In contrast, the annual average increase of Korea's population is lower than the OECD average, which means that the number of Korean physicians per 1,000 will exceed the OECD average by 2038, he explained.
The lack of patient care in essential medicine and workforce in provincial areas stems from wrong healthcare policies, not from doctors' overall shortage, Choi went on to say.
Unless the government improves the medical delivery system and draws up fundamental measures to help doctors provide essential medical care or work in provincial areas, merely expanding the quotas for medical school students will fail.
A reckless increase of doctors will raise medical costs, lower the quality of medicine, and eliminate opportunities to address the nation’s public health problems.