Gov’t intensifies pressure on striking trainee doctors with police raid

A patient is in a wheelchair at a medical center in Seoul, Feb. 29. Yonhap

The government intensified pressure on striking trainee doctors by conducting a police raid on offices of a major doctors’ association and repeating the back-to-work order Friday as many of them remained off the job after the government-set deadline for their return passed. The raids on offices of the Korean Medical Association (KMA) could send a message to thousands of striking interns and resident doctors that the government is serious about taking punitive measures against them, such as the suspension of their medical licenses. The raids marked the first investigative action by police with regard to the walkout. Nearly 10,000 trainee doctors nationwide walked off the job in the form of mass resignations last week in protest of the government’s decision to admit 2,000 more students to medical schools starting next year to address a shortage of doctors. The current quota is 3,058.

The government had given the striking interns and resident doctors until the end of Thursday to return to work or face punitive action, such as the suspension of their medical licenses .An additional 271 protesting doctors returned to work Thursday, bringing the total to 565, the health ministry told reporters Friday. But there seems to be no sign of them ending the walkout altogether as more than 8,000 others remained off work, according to officials. The KMA voiced strong opposition against the government’s moves and vowed to continue collective action, warning that it “could cause inconvenience to the people.” “We strongly condemn the government’s moves of oppressing freedom and human rights of doctors,” the association said in a statement. “We will resist for achieving freedom and making our voice heard.”

The KMA’s emergency measures committee also hinted at the possibility of another collective action, in addition to the KMA’s planned massive rally in Seoul’s Yeouido district Sunday afternoon. “Paid doctors can also join (the walkout) when clinics are closed,” Joo Su-ho, a KMA official, told reporters, adding that a decision to close local clinics for a day or two can be decided by the committee .The ministry on Friday put up the state back-to-work order on its website for 13 trainee doctors affiliated with 12 general hospitals. The move is seen as a final step for potential punitive measures, as the government had delivered such an order via emails and text messages and in person, though many have refused to receive it by changing their phone numbers and addresses .”The government is supposed to deliver the order via email or in person, but posting a notice is also allowed in case those methods are not possible,” a ministry official said. “We will continue due administrative measures in accordance with law and principles.” Police also raided offices of the KMA, the country’s largest doctors’ group, in Seoul and elsewhere after complaints were filed against former and incumbent leaders of the association on charges of instigating the walkout by 온라인카지노 trainee doctors.

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