The Korea Herald


Govt. orders hospitals to submit doctors' work logs amid looming protest

By Yonhap

Published : Feb. 18, 2024 - 10:24

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Doctors walk at a hospital in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap) Doctors walk at a hospital in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)

South Korea's health authorities recently ordered trainee doctors to submit their daily work logs amid their looming collective action in protest of the government's decision to raise medical school enrollment seats, officials said Sunday.

Doctors have warned of a massive strike and other responses in opposition to the government's decision announced earlier this month to add 2,000 to the country's medical school freshmen quota next year, marking a sharp rise from the current 3,058 seats.

Protesting the decision, trainee doctors of five major general hospitals in Seoul said that they would submit their letters of resignation on Monday. They also decided to walk off the job on the following day.

Local health authorities' order issued to hospitals to submit doctors' daily work logs came as the government vowed to take stern actions should doctors engage in a strike.

"(The directive) was issued to prevent instances where doctors, having received the government's return-to-work orders, return to the hospital, only to leave again to participate in collective action," an official from the health ministry said.

As of Friday afternoon, 235 trainee doctors had submitted resignation letters, prompting the government to issue work-resumption orders for 103 doctors who have not actually worked.

Of the doctors who have received the order, 100 of them returned to their workplace, while the return of the remaining three has not yet been confirmed.

Under the local medical law, the government possesses the authority to potentially revoke doctors' licenses should they receive criminal punishments after failing to adhere to the order to return to work.

The Korean Medical Association, the largest lobbying group for doctors, on Saturday vowed to take "unbearable" steps and said they could walk off the job indefinitely if the government continues to threaten interns and residents opposing the plan.

Meanwhile, major hospitals issued announcements their surgery schedules may be adjusted due to the collective move.

Students from 35 out of 40 medical schools also committed to submitting leave of absence requests to their respective universities on Tuesday, showcasing their solidarity with the ongoing doctors' protest.

In a Gallup Korea poll involving 1,002 individuals last week, 76 percent of respondents favored the "positive aspects" of the medical school quota hike, with only 16 percent expressing a negative view. (Yonhap)