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Desperate patients appeal for withdrawal of doctors' planned strike

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A woman cries as she takes part in a press conference organized by patients' associations calling for the withdrawal of doctors' planned strike in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, June 13. Yonhap

A woman cries as she takes part in a press conference organized by patients' associations calling for the withdrawal of doctors' planned strike in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, June 13. Yonhap

Out of deepening despair amid a prolonged walkout by trainee doctors, patients on Thursday lashed out at doctors for planning a broader strike next week and urged the government to enact a law to prevent a recurrence of a collective action by medical staff.

A total of 92 associations of patients made the appeal during a joint press conference in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, as the Korea Medical Association (KMA), a major lobby group for doctors, decided to go on strike June 18, which could involve community doctors and medical professors.

The move is feared to deepen disruptions to the medical system, already reeling from the walkout by trainee doctors since February against the government's medical reform plans that involve increasing the medical school enrollment quota.

"We express profound concerns over the planned strike by the KMA and the decision to suspend hospital operations indefinitely by professors of the Seoul National University Hospital," the groups said in a joint statement.

"Over the past several months, patients have suffered significantly due to the prolonged medical service vacuum. We hoped for a resolution but rather witnessed another strike plan, which is pushing us into the abyss," they added.

They also criticized doctors of the SNU hospitals for asking patients to postpone their reservations for medical treatments, saying, "They should have made such requests to their junior colleagues."

Patients and activists demand the withdrawal of doctors' planned strike during a press conference in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, June 13. Yonhap

Patients and activists demand the withdrawal of doctors' planned strike during a press conference in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, June 13. Yonhap

Senior doctors at four major hospitals affiliated with SNU vowed to indefinitely suspend their hospital operations June 17 in support of the striking junior doctors.

The patients then demanded that the government legalize the use of medical assistance staff at hospitals in emergency situations to minimize damage to patients and enact a law to ensure the normal operation of essential medical services.

There have been attempts to revise the medical law that bans medical assistants in such crucial fields as pediatrics, obstetrics and emergency medicine, but no progress has been made.

Despite fierce opposition, the government finalized the increase of the medical school admissions quota by around 1,500 seats late last month in an effort to address the shortage of doctors. It was the first such increase in 27 years. (Yonhap)

A cancer patient, left, cries during a rally calling for her doctors not to take part in the scheduled strike in front of the Seoul National University Hospital in Seoul, June 12. Yonhap

A cancer patient, left, cries during a rally calling for her doctors not to take part in the scheduled strike in front of the Seoul National University Hospital in Seoul, June 12. Yonhap



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