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SEOUL — U.S. officials say a partial strike by South Korean medical workers will not affect off-base care for the U.S. military community.

The Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union called the walkout Tuesday after their demands for more pay, the hiring of additional personnel and a ban on U.S. beef in patient meals were not met. The group is also protesting the privatization of medical care in South Korea.

The strike affects 103 hospitals and includes nurses and therapists not working in intensive care units or emergency rooms.

Tricare medical support assistant Yi Un-chung, who is responsible for assisting U.S. military community patients referred to off-post providers, said Tricare works with the international clinics at hospitals.

A union spokesman said some workers in the international clinics are union members, but he said that patient care would not be affected.

"I assure you foreign patients will receive the same level of care throughout the strike," he said, adding that the number of striking workers has been kept low to ensure patient care does not suffer.

The spokesman said the strike will continue until the union’s demands are met.

Yi said the 121st Combat Support Hospital refers patients off post for a number of tests and procedures not readily available on post, including MRIs, pediatric care, and ear, nose and throat treatment.

Patients within the U.S. military community falling into the bottom two priorities of patient care, including retirees and Department of Defense civilians, are also frequently referred off post, she said.

The 18th Medical Command has agreements with 22 off-post hospitals to provide care for Tricare patients.

Stars and Stripes reporter Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this story.


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