Updated March. 10, 2014 08:11
The Korea Medical Association, comprised primarily of medical doctors practicing at neighborhood clinics, will push ahead a collective leave on Monday. It effectively constitutes a general strike that the government labels illegal. As a number of resident doctors at university hospitals agreed to join the collective leave by the association, treatment can be disrupted at university hospitals as well. The collective action comes on Monday, the busiest day of the week at clinics and hospitals, adding to concern over inconvenience to people.
The doctors` association had agreed with the Health and Welfare Ministry on February 18 that a consultative committee on healthcare development allows tele-consulting and establishing affiliates of medical institutions on a limited basis. Regarding medical insurance fees paid to doctors, the ministry will also devise measures by gathering opinion from the medical community. Nevertheless, the association`s leadership, led by chairman Noh Hwan-gyu, rejected the agreement and pushed ahead with a vote on general strike. With self-righteous behaviors of the associations leadership, which combined with medical doctors "pork barreling effort," critics say that medical doctors are taking patients hostages to push for collective action.
Thirty-eight veteran medical doctors, including Na Hyeon, former vice chairman of the doctors` association, and Park Jong-hoon, professor at Korea University Anam Hospital, announced a plan to launch the tentatively called Korea ordinary medical doctors association last week, criticizing the associations leadership. Na said, After linking with the Korea medical workers union under the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, Chairman Noh is leaning toward the left for struggle, putting themselves in the firing line of majority of the public. Some watchers say that even though the doctors` association cites various issues, including its opposition to the privatization of medical service and tele-consulting, as reasons for their strike action, the main reason behind the walkout is to raise insurance fees paid to doctors. In order to secure momentum for their struggle, medical doctors who are employers themselves are going as far as staging joint struggle with the medical workers union, which represents employees. Eight patients groups, including the Korea Alliance of Patients Organizations and the Korea leukemia patients association, also blasted the doctors` association, saying, No one will support their collective action that takes patients hostage.
Prime Minister Chung Hong-won instructed relevant government ministries Sunday to immediately take legal countermeasures, including executive order to open for business, to identify violations of laws, if the association pushes ahead of collective leave. The government will place an immediate order to medical institutions that go on leave on Monday to open for business, and impose 15-day business suspension to those that lack justifiable reason. The government should sternly deal with illegal action by using legal measures that were announced last week, including suspension of business and revocation of business license.
In order to minimize the publics inconvenience, the government should implement contingency treatment plans in collaboration of public health centers and pharmacists` associations nationwide. Apart from taking stern measures against medical doctors illegal collective action, the government should leave open channels of dialogue, and collect and accept demands in a reasonable manner.