Medical professors in S. Korea resign, cut work hours in protest over admission seats

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Seoul, March 25 (IANS) Medical professors in South Korea have started submitting their resignations and reducing their work hours on Monday in support of a prolonged walkout by trainee doctors, despite the government’s attempt for talks over a reform plan that increased the number of medical students, according to a doctors’ group.

Professors from 19 out of 40 medical schools signed a joint statement, saying they will “submit their resignations today,” according to the group of medical professors nationwide, Yonhap news agency reported.

Medical professors, who are senior doctors at major university hospitals, had threatened to quit this week, but they pledged to remain at work.

More than 90 per cent of the country’s 13,000 trainee doctors have been on strike in the form of mass resignations since February 20 to protest the government’s decision to increase the medical school enrollment quota by 2,000 seats.

Meanwhile, President Yoon Suk Yeol on Monday instructed Prime Minister Han Duck-soo to communicate more closely with the medical community regarding the government’s medical reform plans, his spokesperson said.

“Please communicate more closely with all sectors of society, including the medical community,” he was quoted as saying by his spokesperson, Kim Soo-kyung, Yonhap reported.

A day earlier, Yoon had asked the prime minister to look for “flexible” ways to handle the suspension of medical licences, which the government was expected to enforce against protesting doctors starting Tuesday.

However, another group of medical professors demanded the government scrap the reform plan that increased medical school admission seats, saying it would sit down for talks with the government only if the plan was abolished.

The demand by the Medical Professors Association of Korea is expected to complicate an attempt by the government to hold talks with the medical community.

“Unless the government scraps the plan to increase the number of medical school freshmen and withdraws the allocation of seats, the ongoing crisis cannot be settled,” the association said.

“If the government is willing to withdraw (the plan), we are ready to discuss all the pending issues in front of the people,” it said.

Medical professors will also go ahead with their plan to reduce their weekly work hours to 52 hours by adjusting surgeries and other medical treatments, according to the association.



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