S. Korea to mobilise over 2,700 nurses amid prolonged doctors' walkout

April 12, 2024
The Health Ministry of South Korea, on Friday, said that it would send more than 2,700 additional physician assistant

Seoul, April 12 (IANS) The Health Ministry of South Korea, on Friday, said that it would send more than 2,700 additional physician assistant (PA) nurses to hospitals to minimise medical system disruptions amid the prolonged walkout by trainee doctors.

According to the Ministry, till March-end, 8,982 PAs were working at 375 general hospitals nationwide, and the government now plans to add 2,715 such nurses to raise the total number to around 12,000, Yonhap news agency reported.

More than 90 per cent of South Korea’s 13,000 trainee doctors have walked off the job since February 20, in protest of the government’s push to increase the number of medical school seats by 2,000 starting next year from the current 3,058 seats.

The walkout has caused major chaos in the medical field, as junior doctors have played a key role in main hospitals, and PAs and other medical staff have been struggling to fill the void.

To add more nurses, the government said that it would conduct “intensive” education and training programmes for them from next week.

Often called clinical nurse specialists or operating room nurses, PAs are supposed to take over part of the duties of junior doctors in medical institutions, such as conducting tests and performing partial surgeries.

The government has said it is open to talks. President Yoon Suk Yeol also met with the chief of a striking trainee doctors’ group earlier this month. However, no immediate breakthrough has been reported.

The government has been stressing the need for the admission quota increase to address a shortage of doctors, particularly in rural areas and essential medical fields, such as high-risk surgeries, paediatrics, obstetrics, and emergency medicine.

Given South Korea’s ageing population and other issues, the country is expected to fall short of 15,000 doctors by 2035.

However, doctors argue that the medical school enrollment quota hike would compromise the quality of medical education and services and create a surplus of physicians, adding that the government must devise ways of better protecting them from malpractice suits and extending compensation to induce more physicians to practise in such “unpopular” areas.



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