‘Excessive literal translation egoism’ causes great disappointment to the public
89% of citizens agree that “there is an urgent need to expand doctors”
The strike has no justification and will cause great harm to patients.
The strike by doctors opposing the increase in medical school capacity by 2,000 students is virtually at a countdown. Residents (interns and residents) acting as the ‘strike vanguard’ are imminent to refuse treatment or submit collective resignations. The Korean Medical Association (KMA) has formed an emergency response committee and will begin collective action in earnest, including holding demonstrations across the country on the 15th. Former Chairman of the Korean Medical Association Noh Hwan-gyu said, “The government cannot defeat doctors. He even threatened, “The disaster has begun.”
Since 2000, successive governments have been helpless in the face of doctors’ strikes that have taken the people’s lives and health hostage. The Moon Jae-in administration announced a plan in 2020 to increase the number of doctors by 400 each year for 10 years, but it ended up being ineffective due to a strike by medical residents during the COVID-19 situation. If the government does not respond properly to this strike, the negative effects that will only affect the people will be greater.
To conclude, it is unlikely that the doctors’ demands will be met. This is because there is little public support, which determines the success or failure of a strike. There are frequent complaints such as “Honestly, isn’t this a fight between doctors?” and “I’m sick of the literal selfishness of doctors, who are the leaders of society.” The doctors’ opposing logic is also unconvincing. It could be a watershed moment in eradicating chronic doctors’ strikes.
First, there is no justification for a strike. Doctors argue that there is currently no shortage of doctors, and that even if the number of doctors increases, they will not go to essential or local medical sites. Is that really the case? Patients are dying while running around the emergency room, and young parents are suffering from the ‘open run of pediatrics.’ The reality is that seriously ill patients in rural areas receive treatment in lodgings in front of large hospitals in Seoul. This means that 89% of the public supports increasing the number of medical schools. It is clear that more doctors are needed, but they are opposed to it because they fear it will interfere with their ability to make money in the future.
Second, the claims that “the government unilaterally decided to increase troops” and “the Korean Medical Association only acted as a sidekick” are not valid. It was around October of last year that the government announced a policy to increase the number of medical school students by more than 1,000. The government has held talks 28 times in the medical issues consultative body. Isn’t it true that the Korean Medical Association just dragged on by refusing to engage in dialogue, saying, “Don’t even mention reinforcements?” There is no country that implements policies with the permission of specific occupations.
Third, the logic that the quality of medical care is poor is also weak. It is said that the Medical Association does not have the conditions to properly educate the increased number of 2,000 people at once. However, a demand survey of 40 medical schools nationwide at the end of last year showed that it was possible to increase the number of students by a minimum of 2,151 and a maximum of 2,847. The Korean Medical Association’s claim that it is an “unscientific public opinion war” is merely opposition for the sake of opposition. Even if we make a hundred concessions, isn’t the pain of the people not receiving treatment on time greater than the decline in quality of medical care?
Fourth, the claim that ‘the burden of public medical expenses will increase’ has not been verified. If the number of doctors increases by several thousand, prices may decrease as competition arises according to market principles. I would like to ask whether medical costs are rising due to excessive treatment by doctors and ’embezzlement’ of health insurance fees by office-based hospitals. If patients can receive satisfactory treatment on time, even if medical costs increase, the public can tolerate it.
Doctors, who earn an average annual salary of more than 200 million won, frequently go on strike, causing public sentiment to be cold. The Moon Jae-in administration took a step back to pay attention to what doctors thought, but the situation is different now. President Yoon Seok-yeol said, “Expanding the medical workforce is a task of the times that cannot be delayed any longer.” Moreover, with the general election ahead, the government will not invite criticism that it is a ‘deteriorating government’. The vicious cycle can be broken by making it so that doctors have no benefit from going on strike.
Doctors must know that they are afraid of the public. It is truly absurd to touch the pride of people living in rural areas with harsh words such as “What is lacking in local areas is not doctors, but people” (former chairman of the Korean Medical Association). It will face a strong backlash from public sentiment. Not knowing when to back off can lead to anger. If doctors care at all about the suffering of the people, now is the time not to go on strike but to cooperate in a big way to save essential and local medical care. A strike without cause and without public support is unlikely to succeed.
Editorial writer Chae Hee-chang
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