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Medical residents overwork despite new work limit: survey
  • By Choi Gwang-seok
  • Published 2017.09.21 12:07
  • Updated 2017.09.21 12:07
  • comments 0

More than 60 percent of medical residents have overworked, despite new work limit of 80 hours per week set by the act to improve training conditions and status of medical residents, a survey showed Wednesday. The law will take effect on Dec. 22.

Medical Policy Research Institute의료정책연구소, the Korea Medical Association’s think tank, conducted the online survey of 1,786 medical residents, including interns across the nation, to collect data for medical policy suggestions and further research.

The survey indicated the medical residents’ average work hours per week stood at 87.3, exceeding the work limit of 80 hours per week. Sixty-four percent of the respondents worked for more than 80 hours per week and 16.2 percent, more than 100 hours per week. The share of medical residents working more than 100 hours per week fell by 10 percentage points this year from 26.3 percent in 2015.

Medical residents work far longer than the legal limit, as shown in a recent the survey by KMA’s Medical Policy Research Institute.

About 35 percent of respondents said their maximum consecutive work hours were between 24 hours and 48 hours, followed by 18 percent having between 48 and 72 consecutive work hours at maximum. The average work hours without a break was 70.1, almost twice the consecutive work hour limit of 36 hours (40 hours at maximum in case of emergency) set by the Medical Resident Act.

Thirty-one percent of the medical residents cited “implicit pressure by the hospital or medical personnel” as the primary reason for working long hours, followed by 18 percent citing “direct order by hospitals or doctors.” Another 14 percent said they overworked “due to emergencies, ” and only 13 percent stated that they did so “voluntarily.”

Some 36 percent said their shift schedule and actual shifts did not match and 83 percent said: “it was because they wrote the schedule according to the order by the seniors.”

Despite their overwork, the residents did not receive proper holiday compensations or financial compensation for shifts.

They took 5.5 days off a month on average, with the largest share of 34.4 percent getting three or four days of rest per month.

Some 14 percent even said they did not have any day off a month.

The residents had 12.9 days of vacation per year on average. However, only 25 percent was able to schedule their vacation in their discretion, although the proportion inched up from 21.9 percent in 2015.

More than half of the residents were paid lower than the 2016 minimum wage of 6,470 won per hour for their shifts. About 57 percent said they received less than 50,000 won for a 12-hour shift and 64 percent said they were paid less than 100,000 won for a 24-hour shift on holiday.

Another survey by the KMA’s research institute found that medical residents were exposed to sexual, verbal and physical violence while working.

The proportion of residents who have been sexually harassed went up to 28.7 percent this year from 25.5 percent in 2015. More than 45 percent of female residents said they had been sexually harassed (17.7 percent in the case of male residents) and 16 percent of them said they had been sexually molested (6.8 percent in the case of male residents).

Inflictors of sexual harassment were patients with 17.6 percent, followed by professors with 9.5 percent and senior residents with 6.9 percent (on multiple replies). Seven out of 10 residents experienced verbal abuse, and 20 percent were victims of physical violence.

“Teaching hospitals, medical residents, and the government should make stronger efforts to abide by the Medical Resident Act, and to improve residents’ work environment,” the KMA’s think tank said.

“We should also improve the method of assessment of residency training environment, and comply with the Medical Resident Act and reflect the reality of residency training,” it added.


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