Gov’t allows hospitals to accept resignations of trainee doctors

A medical professional is seen at a major hospital in Daegu, Tuesday. Yonhap

The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced on Tuesday its decision to withdraw return-to-work orders imposed on trainee doctors who have been on strike for more than three months. Additionally, hospitals will now be permitted to accept their resignations.

Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong also said that the government, which had previously moved to suspend the licenses of striking doctors who defied the return-to-work order, will cease such administrative measures if they return to hospitals.

These decisions grant junior doctors the autonomy to choose whether to return to work or resign according to their own intentions. They signify a significant departure from the government’s initial stance, which emphasized stern measures against the collective action that led to widespread disruptions in medical services nationwide.

“The government made decisions to prevent medical service disruptions from becoming more serious,” Cho said during a media briefing. “From now on, we ask heads of each hospital to confirm intentions of striking doctors and persuade them to return to work.”

The announcement came as more than 90 percent of the country’s 13,000 trainee doctors have remained off the job since Feb. 20 to protest the Yoon Suk Yeol administration’s policy to increase the annual medical school admissions quota.

The government has since ordered the trainee doctors to return to hospitals, while banning hospitals from accepting their resignations. But these measures have failed to bring striking doctors back to work until now.

During the briefing, the minister said the government will help these junior doctors complete their training without disruptions and obtain medical specialist qualifications on time — despite more than three months of absence — by adjusting their training schedules.

He also vowed to make efforts to improve the working environment of trainee doctors and reduce the legal risks caused by medical accidents.

Through this announcement, the government is widely seen as devising an exit strategy and taking conciliatory steps to soothe the trainee doctors to induce at least some of them to return to 추천 hospitals, at a time when all administrative procedures for the medical school quota hike of some 1,500 have been finalized — as of the end of last month — marking the first such increase in 27 years.

The decision not to penalize the striking doctors has sparked a fresh controversy, with critics arguing that it would be unfair to those who have continued to treat patients at hospitals while their colleagues have gone on strike.

In response to this criticism, the ministry stated that it was an “inevitable decision” aimed at preventing the collapse of healthcare services.

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