(LEAD) Gov’t to cut trainee doctor quota unless hospitals accept resignations by next Monday

The government has notified hospitals that it will reduce next year’s quota of trainee doctors unless they accept their resignations by next week, according to officials and the medical community Tuesday.

The move is seen as a measure to put pressure on trainee doctors, who have left their worksites since late February in protest of the medical reform, to return to hospitals.

The notice was sent to training hospitals Monday, when the government announced a decision to withdraw its plan to take administrative steps, including the suspension of medical licenses, against striking trainee doctors in an effort to seek a breakthrough in monthslong medical service disruptions.

If the hospitals accept the resignations of the trainee doctors by next Monday, the move is expected to help them find jobs at other hospitals.

The notice also stated that trainee doctors who reapply for the training program starting in September will receive special treatment, such as an exemption from the rule prohibiting repeat applica
tions to a department within the same year.

Still, it remains to be seen how many of the striking doctors will return to work following the government’s decision to abandon all punitive steps against them.

More than 12,000 trainee doctors, over 90 percent of the total, have been on strike in the form of mass resignations since Feb. 20 in protest of the government’s medical school admissions quota hike.

A group of medical professors from 34 universities, meanwhile, released a joint statement calling for the government to fully revisit the medical school quota hike, which was finalized in May.

“The government should cancel, not withdraw, the unconstitutional measure that banned hospitals from processing resignations and violated trainee doctors’ right to choose jobs,” the professors said in the statement.

“(The government) should come up with fundamental solutions instead of deceptive measures. We call for a dialogue with trainee doctors and medical students from scratch regarding the medical reform, inclu
ding the medical school quota hike for next year,” they added.

Previously, the government had said it would cope with the prolonged walkout in accordance with the law, but Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong said Monday that it is “more urgent” to end the walkout by withdrawing punitive measures against trainee doctors.

Monday’s decision has sparked criticism that it hurts the principle of fairness over the government’s handling of labor actions as doctors are allowed to go unpunished despite illegal acts.

Source: Yonhap News Agency