SEOUL: Patients in South Korea vented frustration and complaints over delayed or postponed treatment schedules Wednesday as general hospital trainee doctors in Seoul and elsewhere stayed away from their jobs for the second day in protest of the government’s plan to hike the medical school enrollment quota.

More than 70 percent, or 8,816, general hospital intern and resident doctors have submitted their resignations en masse so far in protest of the reform plan to raise the medical school admission quota by 2,000 seats next year from the current 3,058, according to Yonhap news agency.

Of them, 7,813 did not report for work Wednesday, defying the government’s back-to-work order.

The departure of junior doctors is fueling concerns of a “healthcare service vacuum,“ with the operation of surgery rooms slashed to as low as 50 percent capacity at the five biggest general hospitals in Seoul in the aftermath, it citing medical sources said.

Medical service disruptions are expected to receive a further blow unless a breakthrough is found at an early stage.

On Wednesday, a 38-year-old biliary tract cancer patient, surnamed Kim, checked himself out of Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH) to be hospitalised at another medical centre at SNUH’s recommendation.

“My condition needs further medical attention because I have a high fever, but I was recommended to move to another hospital yesterday,“ Kim, who underwent cancer surgery at SNUH, told Yonhap.

“There are many patients who said their surgeries have been canceled. If I were them, I would have been devastated because even a slight delay in treatment can greatly affect the outcome of cancer,“ Kim said.

Jeon Kyu-sik, an epilepsy patient in his 50s, vented his frustration: “About half of the hospital rooms appear to be empty ... It almost amounts to overlooking and leaving a patient who would soon die if not operated on immediately.”

A nurse at SNUH’s children’s hospital informed patients and parents that currently, all services are unavailable in the absence of doctors, and surgeries and other operations would only become available as late as August if the current walkout is prolonged. -Bernama

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