Factal Forecast

South Korea doctors’ strike brings major disruptions to health care

February 29, 2024 Episode 132
Factal Forecast
South Korea doctors’ strike brings major disruptions to health care
Show Notes Transcript

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Vivian Wang discuss junior doctors striking in South Korea, plus more on Pakistan’s PTI party holding elections, Super Tuesday in the US, the UK’s Spring Budget and an anti-government rally in Colombia.

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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Vivian Wang, Agnese Boffano, Joe Veyera, Jess Fino and Jaime Calle Moreno Produced and edited by Jimmy Lovaas with additional writing by Sophie Perryer. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

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Copyright © 2024 Factal. All rights reserved.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is February 29th.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got doctors striking in South Korea, Pakistan’s PTI party holding elections, Super Tuesday in the US, the UK’s Spring Budget and an anti-government rally in Colombia. 

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you’ll find a link to in the show notes.

South Korea doctors’ strike

Information compiled by Vivian Wang

JIMMY: Up first, we’ll take a look at a strike by South Korean doctors. For more on that I’ve got fellow Factal editor Vivian Wang.

JIMMY: Hello, Vivian.

VIVIAN: [response]

JIMMY: So this doctor strike in South Korea seems to have really heated up. Hoping you can tell us a bit more about it. So, I guess to start, can you give us a bit of a recap on what’s going on?

VIVIAN: Of course! This particular strike was triggered by this new plan from the South Korean government to increase the number of medical students and thereby doctors in the country over the next 10 years or so. They’re already short on doctors working in essential specialties like pediatrics and emergency medicine, plus they’re expecting demand for medical care to grow as the population ages - their fertility rate dropped again this year, too. So, they wanted to increase medical school admission quotas by 2,000 next year. For context, the current annual quota is just over 3,000, and that hasn’t changed since 2006 despite multiple government attempts, because of similar resistance to this time from doctors. So, the striking doctors see things differently, and I’ll try to sum it up as best as I can. They say that, like, such a sudden increase in admissions next year will overwhelm medical schools. That is like, what, like a 60-65% increase and they want the government to address pay and working conditions before increasing the number of students and doctors. So now more than 9,000 trainee doctors, or medical interns and residents, have walked off the job since February 20, and haven’t shown any signs of wanting to return.

JIMMY: And what’s the latest? How are things doing right now?

VIVIAN: Well, we’re recording this just before a pretty big deadline, actually. The government gave the doctors until February 29 to return to work “without repercussions” - they’ve threatened to press charges, and suspend their medical licenses if they continue striking after that deadline. So we’ll have to see exactly how that goes, but in the meantime, big hospitals that depend on trainee doctors for a lot of their labor are experiencing major disruptions. Emergency rooms are turning away patients, surgeries are being postponed or canceled altogether and an investigation is being launched into the death of a woman who was in cardiac arrest and turned away from seven hospitals before one finally took her in 53 minutes after leaving home. She was declared dead on arrival. It’s been a lot of chaos for anyone needing medical care over the past week. And neither side, the government or the doctors, seem willing to back down at all.

JIMMY: What type of reactions have you seen to the strike?

VIVIAN: So, generally, even doctors that aren’t actively participating in the strike are supportive of it. President Yoon has said he won’t back down, and now criminal complaints are being filed against the strike leaders. Critics of the strike think doctors just don’t want more competition, or are afraid of lower income. And then patients are obviously very worried about what all this means for their medical care, and at least one poll shows public support is against the strikes and supportive of the government’s recruitment plan. And then for a sort of hybrid-perspective, a former doctor and current lawmaker in the ruling party Ahn Cheol-soo said he supported the general idea of the government plan, but that there need to be incentives and safeguards for students to opt into often lower-paying and higher stress but essential specialties, otherwise South Korea’s just going to end up with more dermatology hospitals.

JIMMY: Well, considering all that, what do you think folks should be watching for next?

VIVIAN: Well again, neither side shows any signs of wanting to back down, so unless something significant happens between the time we record and this is released, we’re looking at what could be a pretty protracted strike. We’ve got legislative elections coming up in South Korea too, so that could be another reason why the government’s unwilling to back down.

JIMMY: Well, Vivian, we’ll stop there for today, but thank you so much for your time and for getting us up to speed. Appreciate it. 

VIVIAN: Thanks for having me on, Jimmy.

PTI holds intra-party elections

Information compiled by Agnese Boffano

JIMMY: Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, party will hold internal elections on Sunday. 

These polls come after the party was stripped of its cricket bat symbol at general elections earlier this month.

Political parties in Pakistan are required to hold internal elections in order to qualify for a symbol, which allows them to take part in a national vote. 

The PTI party had its bat symbol banned by Pakistan’s Supreme Court, which said that the party’s 2022 internal vote was unconstitutional.

This meant hundreds of party members had to run as independent candidates in the February 8 general election.

Despite the ban, candidates affiliated with PTI managed to secure the most seats, although they did fall short of an overall majority, taking a total of 97 out of a possible 265 seats

PTI supporters have called for more nationwide protests over alleged vote tampering in the general election.

They’re also critical of the government’s ongoing legal cases against the former party leader Imran Khan, who already faces years behind bars for multiple convictions including corruption.

PTI is expected to elect a new party chairman in Sunday’s election, although it doesn’t look likely that person will lead Pakistan.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Party plan to form a governing coalition.

Super Tuesday

Information compiled by Joe Veyera

JIMMY: Voters in 15 states and American Samoa will cast their ballots in presidential primaries on Tuesday.

Among the states voting are California and Texas, which have almost 1,000 delegates combined.

Former President Trump has won all four Republican nominating contests so far, taking first place in the Iowa caucuses and primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan.

Nikki Haley, the ex-governor of South Carolina, is the only remaining challenger in the Republican field. 

She’s so far failed to translate support among moderate voters into any victories. If that trend continues on Tuesday, she’ll likely be forced to drop out of the race, clearing the path for Trump to win the Republican nomination.

On the Democratic side, incumbent President Joe Biden has faced no significant opposition and he looks set to win the party nomination to run for a second term.

UK spring budget

Information compiled by Jess Fino

JIMMY: British Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will present the government’s economic plan for the year in a speech on Wednesday.

The budget announcement takes place annually, usually in March around the end of the financial year. 

It’s a chance for the government to set out its plan for public spending, any tax hikes or cuts and new financial support for childcare or housing programs.

The ruling Conservative party says it wants to cut taxes, but the government doesn’t have the fiscal headroom for significant changes. 

The UK economy is currently in recession and last year posted the worst GDP result since the financial crisis in 2009.

This will be the last budget before a general election, which must take place before January 2025 according to UK law.

The Conservative government is likely to try and appeal to voters through fiscal initiatives, as polling suggests the party will lose to Labour at the general election.

However, Chancellor Hunt has been warned by the Institute for Fiscal Studies not to consider big tax reductions as he would need to fund them with roughly $44 billion of cuts to public services, which are already struggling due to more than a decade of austerity. 

National anti-government rally in Colombia

Information compiled by Jaime Calle Moreno

JIMMY: A protest collective in Colombia will hold an anti-government march on Wednesday.

The demonstrators are protesting President Gustavo Petro’s reforms to the country’s health system.

Back in December, the lower house of Colombia’s parliament passed Petro’s controversial healthcare changes after 10 months of debate.

The plans include reducing the role of private companies that currently serve as the link between patients and the health care service. 

Instead, the state will take direct control of payments to medical facilities for services.

Now, there’s a lot of anger over the reforms, especially from the group of civilians that organized the march.

They’re being supported by the opposition Centro Democratico party.

Of course, the reforms haven’t yet been passed by Colombia’s Senate, but they’re a signature policy of Petro’s government. 

JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. And we’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Agnese Boffano, Joe Veyera, Jess Fino and Jaime Calle Moreno. Our interview featured editor Vivian Wang and our podcast is produced and edited by me – Jimmy Lovaas, with additional writing by Sophie Perryer. Our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing hello@factal.com

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2024 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: 'Factal Theme' courtesy of Andrew Gospe