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French medical workers protest 'commercial' hospitals bill

Video by Florence VILLEMINOT , FRANCE 2

Text by Gaëlle LE ROUX

Latest update : 2009-04-28

Doctors, nurses and paramedics took to the streets of Paris on Tuesday to protest the HPST bill (hospitals, patients, health and regions) proposed by French Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot, which they say will commercialise France’s hospitals.

Healthcare workers, from doctors to nurses and paramedics, took to the streets of the French capital on Tuesday to protest against a healthcare reform bill.


Their complaint is that the HPST (hospitals, patients, health and regions) bill will bring too much commercial consideration to decision-making in France’s hospitals.


The main sticking point is that the proposed law would give hospital directors – and not the doctors themselves - the final say in spending and management decisions.


Union officials said there were up 20,000 protesters, while police put the figure at 8,000.


“Healthcare is not merchandise, hospitals are not businesses,” a spokesman for the CGT union said.


Some of the big names in French healthcare leant their voices to the protest.


Pioneering face transplant surgeon Laurent Lantieri said: “The turnout and mobilisation of workers has been quite extraordinary.


“It started with one email a month ago which has managed to bring together a huge number of hospital workers.


“I have never seen anything like it.”


Bernard Debré, urologist and MP for the ruling UMP party, added: “This law gives all power to the hospital director. I have always believed it was doctors who look after the sick, not the directors.”


Roselyne Bachelot denied the law would be detrimental to the provision of healthcare to the public, insisting that the medical community would always be at the heart of decision-making.


“I do speak with hospital workers,” she told lawmakers at the start of the demonstrations. “And the bill provides that it would be the hospital’s medical community that would prepare the establishment’s strategy.


“The director is the person who would validate that project. The director can only put a project in motion with the input of the medical community.”


The bill, which has already passed a first reading, will go back to the French Senate on May 11.


The organisers of Tuesday’s demonstration have said they are prepared to call for a strike for staff not involved in urgent operations.


Date created : 2009-04-28