SEOUL: Cases of patient damage are piling up in South Korea, with an elderly woman dying of cardiac arrest without treatment, as trainee doctors have been away from work for the seventh day Monday in protest of the government’s medical school quota hike plan.

Concerns about a healthcare service crisis are growing as more than 9,000 intern and resident doctors have walked off their jobs at general hospitals across the nation in protest against the plan to raise medical school enrollment seats by 2,000 next year, Yonhap news agency reported.

With no signs of a breakthrough between the government and doctors, major general hospitals in Seoul and elsewhere were grappling with the absence of trainee doctors, a core part of the workforce in hospital operations.

Surgery capacities have been halved from normal levels at many general hospitals, while some patients in need of emergent medical attention have been denied admission to hospitals, forcing them to wait hours for treatment.

Also read: More than 6,400 trainee doctors in South Korea resign

In the central city of Daejeon, a woman in her 80s was emergently transported by an ambulance from her home in a state of cardiac arrest Friday. All seven hospitals contacted initially, however, refused to accept her, citing an absence of doctors in charge, a lack of hospital beds or other reasons.

By the time she finally arrived at a hospital 53 minutes after leaving home, she was pronounced dead.

According to the fire authorities in Daejeon, 23 cases of delayed emergency medical transportation have been reported in the city since last Tuesday, while the southeastern port city of Busan saw 42 such cases.

Doctors at general hospitals express concerns that already-strained hospital operations may suffer a fatal blow if fellowship-trained doctors follow suit and join the collective action as they have suggested.

The government announced Monday that it could begin suspending the licenses of protesting trainee doctors unless they return to work soon, urging them to be back to their duties by Thursday. -Bernama

Also read: South Korea: Patients’ frustration grows amid trainee doctors protest

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