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Doctors' strike at critical juncture over talks with ruling party

All News 15:28 September 03, 2020

SEOUL, Sept. 3 (Yonhap) -- A task force of doctors began discussions Thursday on whether to adopt a deal reached with the ruling party on ending a strike amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The task force and the ruling Democratic Party were working on the wording for a final agreement that reportedly includes putting on hold the government plan to increase medical school admission quotas unconditionally.

Members of the Korean Medical Association's (KMA) and the Korean Intern and Resident Association (KIRA) held a closed-door meeting. No details were immediately available.

KIRA announced an indefinite walkout of its members earlier this week.

Thousands of trainee doctors working at general hospitals began the strike on Aug. 21 to protest the government's medical reform scheme calling for an expansion of admission quotas at medical schools by 4,000 over the next 10 years, starting in 2022.

Seoul National University Hospital trainee doctors call for the government to scrap its plans to establish a public medical school and expand the number of medical students during a rally in front of the health and welfare ministry at the government complex in Sejong, central South Korea, on Sept. 1, 2020. Medical trainees went on strike on Aug. 7, calling for the government to scrap the plans. (Yonhap)

The KMA, with over 130,000 members, has backed the move, with staff members and major hospitals also siding with trainee doctors and medical students, despite the government's back-to-work orders.

They have also objected to the creation of new public medical institutions that can cater to the needs of rural areas, and the provision of more medical insurance coverage for oriental medicine treatment.

Data showed that 85.4 percent of trainee doctors took part in the strike as of Wednesday, while the percentage for fellow doctors stood at 29.7 percent. The figures compare to Tuesday's 77.8 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

The government, which has so far balked at scrapping the reform plan, said it will respect the outcome of talks between the ruling party and doctors amid the resurgence of the novel coronavirus cases,

The country reported 195 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, including 188 local infections, raising the total caseload to 20,644. However, cluster infections continued to pop up across the country, and the number of critically ill patients is on the rise.


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