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(LEAD) Doctors come up with agreement for dialogue with govt, parliament

All News 16:47 September 03, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead, photos; UPDATES with more info in paras 2-7)

SEOUL, Sept. 3 (Yonhap) -- A task force of doctors reached its own agreement on Thursday as it prepares to hold dialogue with the government and the ruling party on ending a strike amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The task force -- lead by members of the Korean Medical Association (KMA) and the Korean Intern and Resident Association (KIRA) -- held a closed-door meeting to come up with the agreement representing the whole medical circle.

"We will begin talks with the government and the ruling party with our unified list of demands as soon as possible," said Kim Dae-ha, a KMA spokesman, adding that the KMA members listened to the demands of junior doctors.

Seen here is Korea University Guro Hospital in Seoul on Sept. 3, 2020. Earlier in the day, more than 50 professors of internal medicine there resolved to submit resignations in protest of the government's legal action against striking trainee doctors. Medical trainees nationwide have continued to go on strike since Aug. 7, calling for the government to scrap its plan to expand the number of students at medical schools. (Yonhap)

The KMA -- which represents practitioners -- had disagreed with trainee doctors, such as interns and residents at general hospitals, in some ways amid their opposition against the government's medical reform scheme.

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 unconditionally increase medical school admission quotas.

KIRA announced an indefinite walkout of its members earlier this week and the KMA is planning a third nationwide strike for next Monday.

Kim said there is no change in the current walkout and the planned collective action.

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.

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.

Korean Medical Association (KMA) chief Choi Dae-zip presides over a meeting to map out a proposal in connection with the government's controversial medical reform plan at KMA headquarters in Seoul on Sept. 3, 2020. (Yonhap)


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