The strike threat of South Korean doctors fears an interruption of the vaccine introduction

From Sangmi Cha

SEOUL (Reuters) – Doctors in South Korea have threatened a protest strike against the legislation to strip them of their licenses following criminal convictions, raising concerns about a possible disruption of coronavirus vaccination efforts due to begin this week.

Healthcare workers are expected to receive the first batch of the vaccine from AstraZeneca (NASDAQ 🙂 starting Friday, as South Korea plans to protect 10 million high-risk people by July in order to achieve herd immunity by November.

But over the weekend, the Korean Medical Association (KMA), the largest group of doctors, said it would go on strike if parliament passed the law to revoke licenses for doctors given prison terms.

“The bill could result in ordinary innocent doctors being deprived of their license and going to hell because of an accident unrelated to their job or lack of legal knowledge,” spokesman Kim Dae-ha said in a Monday Explanation .

The association’s president, Choi Dae-zip, has called the bill “cruel” and said that passing it would “destroy” current cooperation with the government to treat the virus and conduct the vaccination campaign.

No date has yet been set for the strike, the KMA told Reuters.

The stalemate raised concerns that a doctor strike could slow the rollout at a time when authorities are scrambling to assign medical staff to around 250 vaccination centers and 10,000 clinics across the country.

Disagreement over the bill is undesirable before the vaccine is introduced, the Ministry of Health said, adding that the medical association had a “misunderstanding” about it.

Parliament has sought to revise the Medical Services Act to prohibit doctors from practicing their skills for violent crimes such as sexual abuse and murder.

Legislators from the ruling party, who pushed for the bill, denounced the association, saying it was trying “to take public health hostage to uphold impunity for heinous crimes.”

The nearly 140,000-strong group has a long history of medical disputes with the government.

Many hospitals were downsized during the pandemic last year, as week-long strikes were steered over plans to increase the number of medical students, build medical schools, facilitate insurance coverage and expand telemedicine capabilities.

South Korea reported 332 new virus infections as of Sunday, bringing the total to 87,324 and a death toll of 1,562.

(Interactive graphical tracking of the worldwide spread of coronavirus: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps)

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