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S’Korean Hospitals asks physicians to put in more hours, use telemedicine amid protest

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Korea hospital

South Korean hospitals are now to extend their working hours according to new government directives.

while at it too, physicians and other medical personnel are required to implement  telemedicine services in response to a mass walkout by young doctors protesting against a government plan to increase medical school admissions.

“The operation of public medical institutions will be raised to the maximum,” Prime Minister Han Duck-soo told a disaster management meeting, saying such hospitals would stay open longer as well as on weekends and holidays to take in the overflow.

The walkout has led to concerns about disruptions in healthcare services, with hospitals facing challenges such as turning away patients and cancelling surgeries.

As the walkout entered its fourth day, the health ministry said it was allowing all hospitals and clinics to offer telemedicine services, such as consultations and prescriptions, until now available only a limited basis.

More than 7,800 interns and resident doctors have walked out, the ministry added.

That is just a fraction of the country’s 100,000 doctors, but they have a key role in daily operations at teaching hospitals, where they can make up more than 40% of staff, as cost savings make them attractive for larger hospitals.

The government is taking steps to address the strain on healthcare services by allowing hospitals to offer telemedicine services and extending working hours, including weekends and holidays.

The protesting doctors argue that the issue is more about pay and working conditions rather than the number of physicians.

However, the government’s plan aims to address a projected shortage of doctors in the future due to the country’s rapidly aging population.

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Senior doctors and the Korean Medical Association have not participated in the walkout but have voiced their opposition to the government’s plan.

The prime minister has called on the young doctors to consider the sacrifices made during the COVID-19 pandemic and to engage in dialogue rather than resorting to protests.

Despite the opposition from some in the medical community, a majority of Koreans support the government’s plan to increase medical school admissions, according to a recent poll.

 


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