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Fatigued medical professors set to reduce working hours

Seoul, March 31: Medical professors in South Korea are set to reduce their working hours this week to cope with growing fatigue caused by a protracted walkout by junior doctors.

According to an emergency response committee for medical professors nationwide, the professors, who are senior doctors at major hospitals, will cut back their working hours starting Monday, reports Yonhap news agency.

“Although we have been treating patients without time constraints and reducing their numbers, it seems that we have reached our physical limits,” Bang Jae-seung, head of the committee, told a press conference Saturday. “We will readjust our work hours.”

Bang said a recent survey of a university hospital showed professors’ weekly work hours range from 60 to 98, and the committee has agreed professors will take daytime work hours off the day after working 24 consecutive hours.

Under the plan, professors will focus on treating seriously ill and emergency patients while scaling back surgeries and services for outpatients.

“We will faithfully treat urgent patients in order to fulfill our duty as doctors,” Bang said. “We are sorry that people’s inconveniences will grow but please understand it is a necessary measure for the safety of patients and medical staff.”

The move comes a week after a separate association of medical professors reduced their weekly work hours to 52. The association has also said its professors will minimize services for outpatients starting Monday in order to concentrate on seriously ill and emergency patients.

More than 90 per cent of the country’s 13,000 trainee doctors have been on strike in the form of mass resignations since Feb. 20 to protest the government’s decision to increase the medical school enrollment quota by 2,000 seats from the current 3,058 starting next year.

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