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Doctors reach deals with ruling party, ministry to reconsider medical reform

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)






A doctors’ association reached two separate agreements with the government and the ruling Democratic Party on Friday to restart their talks on a medical reform plan with more input from physicians when the COVID-19 pandemic settles down.

Following an hours-long discussion that began Thursday, Rep. Han Jung-ae, chief policymaker of the Democratic Party and Choi Dae-zip, head of the Korean Medical Association singed a five-point agreement at 10 a.m.

Under the agreement, they will bring the government’s reform scheme aimed at expanding the number of new physicians back to square one for further discussion to include medical professionals.

In July, the ruling party and the health ministry planned to expand admission quotas at medical schools by 4,000 over 10 years starting in 2022, and to open a new public medical school in order to resolve the disparity in medical infrastructure that is concentrated in Seoul and surrounding areas. The scheme sparked a swift backlash from physicians driving junior doctors to stage a walk out from Aug. 21.

They agreed to form a consultation body comprised of multiple medical groups and government and political party officials to discuss measures for the development of regional healthcare system, training system for junior doctors and essential medical infrastructure and disparities in access to healthcare services between urban and rural.

The discussion will be put on hold until the spread of COVID-19 stabilizes here.

“The KMA and the Democratic Party put in a statutory form to suspend plans for expansion of admission quotas at medical schools and establishment of a public medical school. We will start discussions from scratch after the COVID-19 situation stabilizes,” Choi of the doctor’s group said.

The Democratic Party pledged to put effort into securing a sufficient budget for the sharpening competitiveness and improving the quality of medical services of public health and medical institutions.



Later in the day, the KMA chief sealed another five-point deal with Health Minister Park Neung-hoo.

Under the agreement, the ministry and the group will closely coordinate to protect medical personnels and to support health care providers. The group pledged that its members will halt collective action and return to hospitals.



The breakthrough, however, faced resistance from young doctors at general hospitals across the country as the KMA sealed the deal with the ruling party without consultation from the Korean Intern and Resident Association, which actively has led the state-wide protest.

Interns and residents blocked the KMA chief from enter the signing ceremony venue, criticizing the agreement that they called a unilateral decision made hastily.



By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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