Medical residents in Korea work up to 90 hours a week even without receiving overtime pays, a recent survey has shown. Many of them were also exposed to sexual harassment and assault.
The Korean Intern Resident Association (KIRA) conducted the opinion poll on 3,100 medical residents at 66 training hospitals. The total breaks down into four groups -- 16 hospitals with 100 medical residents or fewer, 29 with 100-199 training doctors, 16 with 200-499, and five with 500 or more.
|Korean medical residents suffer from extreme overwork, putting in an average of 89.7 hours a week, according to a recent survey.|
According to the results, an average medical resident was working 88.9 hours per week. At eight hospitals, or 12 percent of the total, residents used to work for more than 100 hours on average. Gachon University Gil Hospital had the longest working hours with 112.7 a week, followed by Catholic Medical Center (105), Soon Chun Hyang University Hospital (104.3), Kosin University Gospel Hospital (103.54), Samsung Medical Center (102.6) and Severance Hospital (101.98).
The workweek has even been curtailed from the previous average of more than 100 hours since the legislation of the Act for the Improvement of Training Conditions and Status of Medical Residents, which limits weekly hours to 80. The government implemented the law last December and planned to enforce the provision on medical residents’ workweek this December.
The opinion poll also said residents sleep about 5.7 hours a day, 24 minutes less than the 6.1 hours for an average Korean worker, as surveyed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
KIRA noted that lost sleep resulting from excessive work hours is “fatal” for patients as well.
“It is urgent that the hospitals improve this situation not only for bettering the treatments of medical residents,” it said. “If only the hospitals have the will to abide by the law, they can reduce the work week to less than 80 hours.”
These physician trainees are also working without proper rewards, often receiving wages below the legal minimum wage as night duty pays. Catholic Medical Center paid a weekend duty fee of 153,850 won ($135), but Korea University Guro Hospital paid only 17,160 won.
Results also revealed a significant number of residents experienced physical or sexual abuses at work. Residents at 57 of the 66 hospitals surveyed reported instances of sexual harassment or assaults from superiors, and one university hospital even saw 30.8 percent of its responding residents had had such experiences.
Verbal abuses and physical attacks were also widespread throughout the training process, with all the 66 hospitals reporting such cases. At some hospitals, half of medical results exposed themselves to verbal and physical abuses.
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