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South Korea to withdraw plan to suspend licenses of doctors on strike

Patients and their family members stage a rally demanding doctors to end the ongoing walkout.
Patients and their family members stage a rally demanding doctors to end the ongoing walkout. Copyright AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
Copyright AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
By AP & Euronews
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South Korea said on Monday it will withdraw its earlier plan to suspend the licenses of striking doctors.

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South Korea's government said it will withdraw an earlier plan to suspend striking doctors' licenses.

Thousands of junior doctors went on strike in February to protest the government's plan to increase school admissions.

It wasn't immediately known how many would return to work after the latest announcement.

Health Minister Cho Kyoo-Hong said the government has decided not to suspend the licenses of the strikers, regardless of whether they return to their hospitals. He said the decision is meant to address a shortage of doctors treating emergency patients.

The government had withdrawn its plan to suspend the licenses of doctors who returned to their hospitals but didn’t do so for others who remained off the job.

Officials have said they want to add up to 10,000 doctors by 2035 to cope with the country’s fast-ageing population and a shortage of physicians in rural areas and in low-paying yet essential specialities like paediatrics and emergency departments.

Doctors say schools aren’t ready to handle an abrupt increase in students and that it would ultimately undermine the country’s medical services.

But critics argue that physicians, one of the best-paid jobs in South Korea, are mainly worried that having more doctors would lower their incomes.

While the striking doctors are a fraction of all the doctors in the country, in some hospitals they represent 30 to 40 per cent and caused cancellations of surgeries and other care.

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