The law capping the maximum weekly work hours to 80 for trainee doctors has caused an unexpected problem for senior residents when preparing for an exam to obtain a specialist certification.
Before the Medical Resident Act took effect, medical institutions used to allow senior residents to leave work for several months to prepare exams. After the enforcement of the law, hospitals found it difficult to do so because giving an extended break to senior residents would breach the law.
The problem created a conflict between the Korean Academy of Medical Sciences (KAMS) and Korea Intern Resident Association (KIRA). The two groups gave different interpretations regarding the criteria for annual leave, which is excluded from hospital work.
KAMS sent its official statement to 26 medical societies, explaining about the preparation period for a specialist certification test.
KAMS said that senior residents could take up to one month for annual leave, where additional medical training does not occur. Thus, residents should use their annual leave to take a training break to prepare for the exam, it said.
One month of a training break means five weeks with each week of six working days excluding paid weekly holidays, and members of the medical societies should not get a disadvantage, KAMS added.
However, KIRA said that KAMS had no decision-making authority over the exam preparation period and that it provided wrong information.
KIRA argued that one of the seven days a week is a paid holiday, and another is a non-paid holiday.
Thus, if a workday was specified as a weekday in a training contract or each hospital's regulations, trainee doctors could use five days per week as annual leave.
The law limiting the maximum weekly work hours to 80 aggravated the situation, as how much time senior residents can secure for the exam preparation depends on whether a workweek should be interpreted as five working days or six.
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