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South Korea opens telemedicine door to contain doctor’s walkout   

South Korea opens telemedicine door to contain doctor’s walkout   

SOUTH KOREA— South Korea’s health ministry has announced the full authorization of telemedicine services across all hospitals and clinics, in a desperate bid to tackle the immediate fallout from a mass doctor walkout. 

The walkout, representing almost 70% of the total resident and intern doctors, has triggered a ripple effect across the healthcare system.    

 This move aims to partially bridge the gap created by the absence of nearly 7,900 trainee doctors, who have resigned in protest against a government proposal to expand medical school admissions. 

Hospitals are turning away patients, canceling procedures, and facing immense strain, prompting the government to declare a “severe” health alert, the highest level in South Korea 

To mitigate the immediate impact, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo announced extended operating hours and weekend/holiday openings for public hospitals. 

 “The operation of public medical institutions will be raised to the maximum level,” Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said at the opening of a disaster management meeting. 

This decision acknowledges the crucial role trainee doctors play, particularly in teaching hospitals where they can make up over 40% of the staff. 

 Their absence is especially felt in critical areas like emergency rooms and intensive care units, where larger hospitals rely heavily on them due to cost considerations. 

While the government’s plan to increase medical school admissions garners public support, the protesting doctors remain adamant about their concerns over working conditions and pay.  

This highlights a deeper rift within the medical community, complicating the resolution process. 

Prime Minister Han has made appeals to the young doctors, highlighting their vital role during the pandemic and urging them to reconsider their decision.  

He has also emphasized the government’s openness to dialogue, seeking a solution that addresses both the need for increased medical access and the grievances of the young doctors. 

As the crisis unfolds, the coming days will be crucial in determining its trajectory and its impact on South Korea’s healthcare system.  

While the government’s immediate response provides temporary relief, a long-term solution requires addressing the deeper concerns of the medical professionals involved and the ongoing tensions regarding the medical school expansion plan. 

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