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(LEAD) Striking doctors set to resume work, more talks over key issues still needed

All News 11:06 September 04, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES with more info throughout; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Sept. 4 (Yonhap) -- Thousands of junior doctors are set to return to work soon, ending their two-week strike, as an agreement was reached with the ruling party on Friday to put the government's medical reform scheme on hold amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The pact was reached between a group of representative doctors led by the Korean Medical Association (KMA), and the government and the ruling Democratic Party (DP) at 11 a.m.

Interns and residents, as well as some fellow doctors at general hospitals across the country and those belonging to the Korean Intern and Resident Association (KIRA), are expected to return to hospitals soon.

Some 200 professors at Pusan National University Hospital in Busan stage a protest against the government's legal action against striking trainee doctors on Sept. 3, 2020, in this photo provided by the hospital. Medical trainees nationwide had gone on strike since Aug. 7, calling for the government to scrap its plan to expand the number of students at medical schools. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The five-point agreement reportedly includes reviewing all key issues from scratch once again when the novel coronavirus outbreak eases, putting the government plan to increase medical school admission quotas on hold.

The agreement also reportedly called for more talks between the medical sector and the health authorities over a variety of issues ranging from the setup of a new public medical school to health insurance coverage.

The pact also reportedly said a special commission will be launched between the KMA and the DP to address matters that can improve the quality of the country's medical field.

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.

Korean Medical Association (KMA) chief Choi Dae-zip answers reporters' questions prior to attending a meeting to map out a proposal in connection with the government's controversial medical reform plan, at the KMA headquarters in Seoul on Sept. 3, 2020, ahead of an indefinite strike declared by doctors starting on Sept. 7. (Yonhap)

The KMA, which represents some 130,000 doctors across the country, 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.

The two-week strike, along with two separate KMA-led nationwide strikes, has disrupted medical services at general hospitals and other medical centers as the country has struggled to contain the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic here.

The country reported 198 new COVID-19 cases, including 189 local infections, raising the total caseload to 20,842, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The daily number fell to below 200 for the second consecutive day, but the number of critically ill patients grew to yet another fresh high.

The doctors 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.


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