Military Hospitals Treat Over 700 Civilians Amid Doctors' Strike in South Korea

South Korea's military steps in to treat over 700 civilians amid doctors' walkout, highlighting challenges in maintaining healthcare access during labor disputes.

Olalekan Adigun
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Military Hospitals Treat Over 700 Civilians Amid Doctors' Strike in South Korea

Military Hospitals Treat Over 700 Civilians Amid Doctors' Strike in South Korea

In response to the ongoing doctors' walkout in South Korea, military hospitals have treated over 700 civilians since mid-February 2024, with 138 patients receiving surgery or hospitalization, according to the defense ministry on April 21, 2024. The military has stepped in to provide medical care to civilians as a result of the doctors' strike, which has disrupted regular healthcare services in the country.

The military hospital emergency rooms became fully accessible to civilians to help address concerns of health care disruptions after thousands of trainee doctors began a walkout on February 19 in protest of a government plan to sharply increase medical school seats. As of Friday, 768 patients have visited military hospitals nationwide since the walkout began, with 397 of them being treated at the Armed Forces Capital Hospital in Seongnam, just south of Seoul.

Among the patients treated at military hospitals, 138 received surgery or were hospitalized, with 66 of them receiving emergency surgery. One notable case involved a woman in her 70s who was in a bicycle accident on April 3 and received treatment at a military hospital.

During a visit to the Armed Forces Capital Hospital, the Prime Minister stated that the government would take measures to ensure that severe trauma patients could be sent to military hospitals, noting their expertise in such treatment. The government has emphasized the importance of ensuring access to medical care for civilians during the ongoing doctors' strike.

Why this matters: The doctors' strike in South Korea has highlighted the challenges in maintaining access to healthcare services during labor disputes. The military's intervention in treating civilians demonstrates the government's efforts to mitigate the impact of the strike on public health.

The Korean Medical Association (KMA), the country's biggest lobby group for doctors, has rejected the government's proposal to grant universities autonomy in deciding their medical school quota by a range of 50 to 100 percent for the 2025 academic year, stating that it is not a fundamental solution. The government had previously announced a plan to increase medical school admissions by 2,000 starting in 2025, which has led to more than 90 percent of the country's 13,000 trainee doctors walking away from their duties at general hospitals since February 20.

Key Takeaways

  • Military hospitals treated over 700 civilians due to doctors' strike in S. Korea.
  • 138 patients received surgery or hospitalization, including 66 emergency surgeries.
  • Govt to ensure severe trauma patients can access military hospitals during strike.
  • Doctors' lobby group rejects govt's proposal to increase medical school seats.
  • Over 90% of 13,000 trainee doctors in S. Korea have walked out since Feb 20.