Health ministry mulls filing criminal complaint against some junior doctors who lead walkout

Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo speaks at the government complex in Sejong, March 5. Yonhap

Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo speaks at the government complex in Sejong, March 5. Yonhap

The health ministry said Tuesday it has considered filing a criminal complaint with police against some trainee doctors who have allegedly led a mass walkout that caused delays in surgeries and other disruption at major hospitals.

The mass walkout by some 9,000 junior doctors entered its third week Tuesday, despite the government's order to go back to work and warnings of suspending their medical licenses.

"We are also considering filing a police complaint," Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo told reporters, adding that such a punitive step would be centered on some trainee doctors who have allegedly led the labor action.

Still, no decision has been made on when the government would file a police complaint against trainee doctors, Park said.

The medical interns and residents, who play a vital role in assisting with surgeries and emergency services at major general hospitals, have maintained their collective labor action, leading to mass cancellations and delays in surgeries and emergency medical treatment.

The government gave protesting doctors a Feb. 29 deadline to return to work, warning them that noncompliance could result in punitive action, including criminal punishment or revocation of their doctors' licenses.

So far, 8,983 trainee doctors at 100 teaching hospitals have left worksites, officials said.

Doctors are subject to suspension of their medical licenses for up to a year, or could face three years in prison or a fine of 30 million won ($22,482), for not complying with such government orders.

Advocacy groups of critical patients, meanwhile, denounced the protracted walkout by junior doctors, urging both the government and trainee doctors to make efforts to end the labor action.

"We would like to ask the government, politicians, and the medical community if they are comfortable, as patients with serious diseases are deprived of sleep due to tension and pain amid the medical vacuum," a union of seven patient organizations said in a statement.

The union urged the government and the medical community to end the conflict and establish a consultation body, including patient groups.

"Even during times of war, it is right to offer medical treatments to wounded enemies," said Kim Tae-hyun, who represents amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients. "Doctors should return to hospitals per their duties." (Yonhap)

Top 10 Stories


Sign up for eNewsletter