South Korea raises health alert to 'severe' over protest by doctors


SEOUL, Feb 23 (Reuters) - South Korea has raised its health alert as of Friday morning after thousands of doctors walked off the job this week to protest against a government plan to raise the number of medical school admissions, the health ministry said.

"We've decided to raise the healthcare disaster risk alert from cautious to severe," the ministry said in a statement late on Thursday, citing an "intensifying" walkout by resident doctors and concerns over public health.

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo will preside over a disaster management meeting on the matter on Friday, the ministry said.

Emergency departments in South Korea's biggest hospitals have been squeezed since trainee doctors began leaving the job this week in protest at government plans to increase medical school admissions to bolster the healthcare sector.

The protests by almost two-thirds of the country's young doctors has forced hospitals to turn away patients and cancel procedures, raising fears about further disruptions to the medical system should the dispute drag on.

The doctors say the real issue is pay and working conditions, not the number of physicians.

EXPLAINER-Why are South Korean trainee doctors on strike over medical school quotas?

(Reporting by Ju-min Park Editing by Ed Davies)


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