The Korea Herald

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지나쌤

Nurses support med school quota hike

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Feb. 14, 2024 - 14:30

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A doctor is seen walking outside the operation room of the Keimyung University Dongsan Medical Center in Daegu on Wednesday. (Yonhap) A doctor is seen walking outside the operation room of the Keimyung University Dongsan Medical Center in Daegu on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

The Korean Nursing Association on Wednesday pledged its support for the government plan to boost the enrollment quota at medical schools, in light of the doctors threatening a strike in protest of the plan.

The Korean Nursing Association held a press conference in front of the National Assembly in Seoul at which they expressed full support of the medical school overhaul and called for the normalization of the country's medical field.

"Currently the people's lives are threatened due to a shortage of doctors. There has even been a case when a nurse of one of the biggest hospitals in South Korea was unable to be operated on because there wasn't a doctor to perform the surgery. ... Such tragedy should be no more," the KNA said in its press release, urging the government not to compromise its plan.

The association was referring to the 2022 incident when a nurse at Asan Medical Center in Seoul suffered a cerebral hemorrhage but was unable to receive a surgery because both of the hospital's neurosurgeons were unavailable at the time. The nurse was transferred to Seoul National University Hospital some 15 kilometers away, but eventually died.

"The No.1 responsibility of a medical staff is to protect the health and life of a patient, and the doctors' association should fulfill their duties. ... A medical staff should never abandon one's post, no matter what the circumstances," the group said.

The KNA also made its own request to the government to address issues, including: preventing illegal medical practices, implementing state-funded 24-hour nursing system for patients in hospitals, the imbalance between medical services in the greater Seoul area and other regions, expansion of at-home nursing care for the elderly and the chronically-ill, and enactment of the law on quality of the nursing care.

The South Korean government last week announced its plan to increase the country's medical enrollment quota for next year by 2,000. The enrollment quota had been at the current 3,058 since 2006.

The government plan was made to address the shortage of doctors across the country, particularly in the essential medical fields.

According to the most recent figures by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, South Korea has 2.6 practicing doctors per 1,000 people, considerably lower than the OECD average of 3.7 and only higher than Mexico's 2.5 among the member states.

But the enrollment quota hike has been fiercely opposed by physicians across the country, with the doctors warning of a possible strike if the government pushes forward with its decision.