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Last updated: 18 Jun, 2024  

south.korea.Thmb.jpg Patient disruptions in South Korea rise amid doctors' nationwide 1-day strike

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IANS | 18 Jun, 2024

Patients nationwide in South Korea experienced increased healthcare disruptions on Tuesday, having to return home without treatment or endure long waits, as neighbourhood clinics closed as part of a general strike by doctors protesting the medical school quota hike.

Some community doctors across the nation closed their clinics for the day to participate in a one-day walkout organised by the Korea Medical Association, a major lobby group for doctors, protesting against the government's medical reform initiative, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The health ministry said that only 4 per cent of the country's 36,371 community clinics, excluding dental and oriental medicine practices, have submitted mandatory reports for business suspension for Tuesday.

Healthcare service disruptions for patients were, however, pronounced as the walkout came amid significantly reduced services at general hospitals nationwide due to a monthslong strike by trainee doctors.

The previous day, Seoul National University Hospital in central Seoul and three of its affiliated hospitals also went on an indefinite walkout, demanding that the government reconsider the medical school quota increase and withdraw punitive measures against protesting trainee doctors.

A 33-year-old patient surnamed Kim, was taken aback after discovering that the otolaryngologist's office in her neighborhood in Seoul's southern Seocho district, where she visited for sudden deafness, was closed.

"I am in big trouble. I was told to preserve the 'golden time' for treatment because I can permanently lose my hearing if not treated promptly," the patient said, as she urgently checked a nearby clinic for service availability.

Including Kim, seven patients visited the clinic in Seocho during a 20-minute period on Tuesday, only to walk away after discovering a notice of service closure posted on the office front.

A normally busy paediatrics office located in an apartment-crowded area in Suwon, south of Seoul, was also among the clinics that suspended services for the day.

A notice posted on its entrance said, "Hospital closed due to an internal situation. We are sorry for the inconvenience."

Three of the four paediatrics clinics in another apartment-heavy area in Yongin, south of Seoul, were closed, resulting in a waiting list of more than a dozen patients at the clinic that remained open.

"I've heard a lot about the medical-government conflict, but I have never been so directly affected by it as I am today," a resident told Yonhap News Agency.

"I am very disappointed with both the government and the medical sector for aggravating the issue to this extent," the resident said.

University general hospitals nationwide, already experiencing disruptions due to the prolonged absence of trainee doctors, suffered further setbacks as senior doctors took the day off to join the general walkout.

No critical emergency medical situations were reported due to the one-day walkout, however, as only a fraction of the neighbourhood clinics across the nation participated in Tuesday's collective action.

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