(LEAD) Health ministry appeals to defiant trainee doctors to come forward for talks

SEOUL, The health ministry on Wednesday appealed to defiant junior doctors to come forward for talks with the government, as a prolonged walkout by trainee doctors has crippled major hospitals for more than five weeks. Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo urged defiant trainee doctors to "form a responsible delegation and come to the dialogue table with the government." Despite the government's repeated appeal for talks, trainee doctors have refused to do so, citing a lack of their representatives, according to ministry officials. About 12,000 interns and resident doctors have remained off the job since Feb. 20 in protest of the push to hike the number of medical students, forcing surgeries and other public health services to be canceled or delayed at major hospitals. In support of junior doctors' labor action, medical professors, who are senior doctors at major university hospitals, have also begun tendering their resignations starting this week. Park said the government will provide more fiscal po licy support for public health care systems next year, including financial support for trainee doctors. Still, prospects for talks with the medical community are slim as the government allocated the additional 2,000 medical school admission seats to universities last week. Senior doctors said they would not sit down for talks with the government unless the plan is scrapped. However, the Korean Medical Association (KMA), which represents some 140,000 community doctors, urged President Yoon Suk Yeol to meet in person with defiant trainee doctors. "As the top leader of the executive branch, President Yoon Suk Yeol should initiate dialogue with junior doctors, carrying out negotiations to address the ongoing situation and pave the way for its resolution," said Kim Taek-woo, the head of the KMA's emergency committee. The government is pushing to increase the admission quotas to address a shortage of doctors, particularly in rural areas and essential medical fields, such as high-risk surgeries, pediatrics, obst etrics, and emergency medicine. But doctors argue the quota hike would compromise the quality of medical education and services and create a surplus of physicians, stating the government must devise ways of better protecting them from malpractice suits and extending compensation to induce more physicians to practice in such "unpopular" areas. Source: Yonhap News Agency