Doctors launched a strike committee and finalized their walkout plan on Monday ahead of collective action scheduled for next week to protest the government’s new medical plans, including telemedicine, officials said.
The Korean Medical Association, which represents more than two-thirds of the nation’s medical doctors, will stage a full one-day strike next Monday, excluding emergency room and intensive care center workers. From March 24, all doctors will go on strike for six days with no exceptions, the KMA said.
Between the two dates, doctors will launch a “work-for-rule strike” ― limiting medical care time to 15 minutes per patient. Medical residents will only work for eight hours a day, it added.
“The strike is an expression of doctors’ strong will to deter the government’s push for telemedicine and for-profit policies, and to fundamentally reform the abnormal health care system,” the KMA said.
The KMA voted Saturday for a strike, with 77 percent in favor. Nearly 70 percent of some 70,000 members participated in the eight-day vote late last month.
Doctors threatened in January to go on strike if the government pushed ahead with its new health care reforms allowing telemedicine service and for-profit subsidiaries.
While the government claimed that the new measures would provide greater convenience for patients and would attract investment to hospitals, doctors expressed concerns that they would only bring down the quality of medical services while stimulating privatization of the medical sector.
Currently, Korean hospitals are operated by nonprofit foundations and regulated strictly by the government.
Before the vote, representatives of the government and the KMA held rounds of negotiations over contentious medical issues and agreed to toss the telemedicine bill to the parliament.
Some doctors, however, opposed the agreement, signaling discord between doctor representatives and KMA members.
By Lee Hyun-jeong (firstname.lastname@example.org)