KMA doctors go on one-day strike MondayUpdated: 2014-03-10 19:57:19 (KST)
A one-day strike led by the Korean Medical Association began earlier this Monday morning and ended at 6 p.m.
"Doctors refused to provide medical services, and many hospitals across the nation were closed."
The government ordered doctors to return to work immediately.
The health ministry's estimates say that 29 percent of doctors nationwide participated in the walk-out, while the medical association puts the figure at 47 percent.
Although some patients were inconvenienced by the strike, it didn't cause as many problems as initially feared.
President Park Geun-hye has reiterated the government's vow to take legal measures against striking doctors, including a 15-day business suspension.
"Acts that harm the people must be strictly dealt with according to the law and principle."
"It's regrettable that we had to make the extreme decision of closing hospitals and not treating patients. I am resentful toward the government."
The KMA's strike was called in protest of a government plan to introduce a telemedicine system that would allow for patients in remote areas to be diagnosed via webcam, smartphone, or even email.
KMA doctors say it will impair the quality of medical services.
The medical association is also up in arms over a government move to run for-profit subsidiaries.
While the government says it will improve the nation's medical industry, the KMA says it will only lead to a hike in medical bills.
Doctors are concerned the reforms could eventually lead to privatization of the medical sector.
Following Monday's walk-out, the strike will transition to a work-to-rule action starting Tuesday and running through March 23rd, meaning doctors won't work more than 40 hours a week, and will treat patients for no longer than 15 minutes.
A full six-day strike is then planned to begin on the 24th, which, unlike today's action, could also include the closing of emergency rooms and intensive care centers.
The medical strike stands to be the largest in 14 years, and with negotiations between both sides at a stalemate, some fear it will continue for the long term.
Kwon Soa, Arirang News.
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