South Korean patients' advocacy groups call on doctors to end walkout

by IANS |

South Korean patients' advocacy groups call on doctors to end walkout Seoul, July 4 (IANS) Members of more than 90 patient advocacy groups staged a rally in central Seoul on Thursday, calling for doctors to end the ongoing walkout that has disrupted public health services for nearly five months. The protest, including members from the Korea Alliance of Patients Organization and the Korean Organization for Rare Diseases, came as trainee doctors have left their worksites since late February, causing disruptions in major hospitals, including cancellations and delays in surgeries, Yonhap news agency reported. "Under no circumstances should medical services for the patients be suspended, nor should there be any indication that they could be stopped, causing anxiety," the groups said in a joint statement. "Patients and their families, as well as the public, are experiencing anger, anxiety and fatigue amid the conflict between the irresponsible government and reckless trainee doctors and medical professors," they added. The rally came amid sluggish progress between the government and the medical community to launch a dialogue, with medical professors, who serve as senior doctors at general hospitals, also recently joining trainee doctors' walkout in solidarity. While the medical community formed a committee to establish a unified representative body for doctors, trainee doctors and medical students have been boycotting the initiative, claiming it fails to adequately reflect their voices. Amid the lingering dispute, senior doctors at Asan Medical Center, one of the five largest hospitals in Seoul, began reducing patient care on Thursday, claiming that this measure aims to focus on treating critically ill patients amid the ongoing medical vacuum. The health ministry said it was notable that the professors at Asan Medical Center did not proceed with an all-out walkout for the patients. "We ask medical professors to refrain from taking extreme measures, such as indefinite collective walkouts," Kim Guk-il, a senior official of the ministry, said. Kim also urged trainee doctors to promptly return to their hospitals, noting that the government will make its best efforts to help them complete their training. "The government will make its best efforts to engage in talks with the medical community, responding to the desperate voices of patients and their families," Kim added. Doctors at Severance Hospital, Gangnam Severance Hospital and Yongin Severance Hospital, meanwhile, have been suspending the treatment of outpatients, non-emergency surgeries and other services since late last month. Medical professors at Korea University and Chungbuk National University have vowed to launch walkouts starting July 12 and 26, respectively. --IANS rvt/dpb

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