South Korea to train 4,000 medical students to tackle future pandemic

by Akeem Alao
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South Korea has disclosed plan to strengthen its response to future public health crisis.

While disclosing this on Friday July 24, 2020, health officials stated that 4,000 medical students will be trained over the next 10 years to “swell the number of its doctors and strengthen the response to future public health crises.”

Kim Tae-nyeon, a lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, said on Thursday, that doctors would be trained to fight potential outbreaks of infectious disease worse than COVID-19.

Kim pointed to the risk of more frequent epidemics and limited numbers of beds for the sick.

He further stated that the government plans to step up admissions to medical schools using a combination of new quotas, incentives for students in less lucrative specialities and those who complete a decade of public health work in rural areas.

“We will increase the quota for medical students to add more personnel in specialized fields,” Kim said.

According to Kim, the plan is to boost medical school admissions by about 4000 a year for the next decade, before returning to a quota of 3,058, which has stayed fixed since 2006.

The government said it would waive tuition and offer full scholarships to about 300 students in areas such as epidemiology, gynaecology or surgery, widely seen as unpopular in contrast with more lucrative plastic surgery and dermatology.

Authorities said South Korea’s 2018 ratio of 2.4 doctors for every 1,000 people fell short of an average of 3.5 for nations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The Korean Medical Association (KMA) called the government’s plan unnecessary, however, saying it was a distraction from real problems in the public health system.

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