Inje University Seoul Paik Hospital is taking steps to give up its status as a teaching hospital to reduce costs, sources said.
According to the association of medical interns and residents at the hospital, Inje Medical Foundation’s board of directors and the hospital’s executives have been operating a task force to improve the hospital’s finance for several months.
The task force was mulling giving up the teaching hospital status and improving managerial structure to make the hospital turn around.
From early this month, rumors circulated that the hospital would not open positions for trainee doctors for 2020 and reduce the hospital size to make it more profitable.
The trainee doctors’ association at the hospital distributed a statement to the board of directors, executives at the foundation, and professors on March 13.
“No medical intern or resident heard about the disadvantages of working here before they entered the hospital,” the association said in the statement. “We were in agony whether to choose to work here because the hospital had a small number of openings for trainee physicians, suffered financial problems, and lacked options if we fail to enter the department we had wanted.”
However, the task force’s latest move to improve the hospital management made medical residents and interns feel “betrayed,” the association said.
Seoul Paik Hospital’s trainee physicians have been working hard with pride and self-esteem, despite low pay compared to the poor working environment and long working hours, it added.
The task force’s plan overlooked such sacrifice made by medical residents and interns, it emphasized.
The trainee doctors’ group demanded the foundation and the hospital withdraw the plan to give up the teaching hospital status and come up with a plan to stabilize the hospital’s finance.
“We decided to work at Seoul Paik Hospital instead of a large hospital operated by other private companies because we believed that the hospital did not treat us like a component and we could learn true medicine with ‘a sense of ownership,’” the group said. “The foundation should reconsider its decision, which was made with numbers only. We hope that this will become a good opportunity for employees at the foundation-run institutions to realize what kind of values Inje Academy is pursuing.”
However, the task force responded by deciding to give up the teaching hospital status.
The expanded task force, comprised of executives at five medical institutions run under the Inje Medical Foundation, made the decision on Monday. The board of directors’ approval finalizes the decision.
The medical residents’ association said the hospital was trying to guarantee training until the first-year trainee doctors complete their course.
However, the task force has been discussing the issue without considering other issues, the association noted. Giving up the teaching hospital status might increase the workload for trainee physicians or hurt the educational environment, it said. The hospital did not even discuss what to do with interns, the association added.
Interns at Seoul Paik Hospital went on strike as of noon on Wednesday.
“Any intern or resident practicing at Seoul Paik Hospital did not receive an explanation or a notice about a cancellation of the teaching hospital status or moving to another hospital for training,” a member of the medical residents’ association told Korea Biomedical Review on the phone. “As we do not know anything about such procedures, we are perplexed.”
The doctor noted that 11 physicians who started an internship at the hospital this year have been hit hard with the task force’s decision in just 11 days after starting work.
The reason the interns chose to work at Seoul Paik Hospital was to apply for jobs at the department they were in, the doctor said.
“Cancelling teaching hospital status is equal to taking away their future jobs in front of their eyes,” he said. “Hiring interns without prior notice and making a unilateral decision to strip their work rights is definitely a job scam.”
Not to make the situation worse, the hospital should offer other options such as allowing interns to move to another hospital to continue training, he emphasized.
The hospital said it would do its best to prevent damages to interns and residents.
“We will draw up measures to prevent any damage to interns and residents, before the April meeting of the board of directors,” an official at Seoul Paik Hospital said.
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