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Several South Korean physicians oppose the government’s proposal to raise admittance to medical schools in spite of warnings

Thousands of physicians demonstrated in Seoul on Sunday against the South Korean government’s plan to raise admissions to medical schools, causing a major uproar, according to CNN.

The protest brought attention to more general worries about the lack of funding for the country’s healthcare system.

The physicians who were protesting claimed that rather than just raising the number of medical students admitted each year, the government has to address a number of issues that the healthcare system is now experiencing. The construction of a strong infrastructure to support the education of an increasing number of medical students, government reimbursement for necessary medical treatments, and specialized field personnel are among the main issues, according to CNN.

In February, the government announced intentions to increase the number of students admitted to medical schools by 2,000 every year. This increase will begin with the 2025 academic year and continue until 5,000 students are admitted yearly. The goal is to improve medical accessibility in rural regions and satisfy the changing healthcare needs of one of the fastest-aging populations in the world.

On February 21, trainee physicians began striking against their harsh working circumstances, which included long hours and inadequate compensation. Approximately 8,000 of them resigned as a result. Since then, another 1,000 people have quit, demonstrating how serious the issue is.

“Protecting people such as children, the elderly, and people with disabilities is directly linked to the government’s core policy on welfare for the vulnerable populations in healthcare,” said South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, reiterating the government’s commitment to the proposed revisions. Therefore, there is no room for discussion or compromise on this [medical reform].”

In a recent Gallup survey, 76% of participants supported increasing the number of people admitted to medical schools.

The government sent out a back-to-work order on Thursday, informing the striking physicians that failure to comply might result in the suspension of their medical licenses.

A spokesperson for the physicians in South Korea said that they were in favor of the walkout and would keep pushing for their requests to be fulfilled even after the deadline had passed.

According to the Health Ministry, in order to fill the vacuum in healthcare during the strike, the government has hired nurses and given them legal protection to do several medical operations that physicians usually handle.

According to CNN, the impasse between the government and the medical community highlights how difficult it is to strike a balance between the needs for healthcare in a country where there are more senior care facilities than childcare centers, fewer child care facilities overall, and the lowest birth rate since 2015.

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