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French hospital workers take to the streets over lack of resources, manpower

Screengrab of French hospitals before striking.
Screengrab of French hospitals before striking. FRANCE 24

French hospital workers carry on their industrial action with another major strike in Paris on Thursday. They are demanding more resources and manpower while the government is fine-tuning a long-awaited financial support plan.

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This call for a major demonstration was launched a month ago by the new Inter-Hôpitaux collective. They are calling on doctors, medical students, patients and carers to join them in marching to the French Senate building on Thursday afternoon.

The striking personnel say they face low pay and a relentless pace in emergency rooms that are “saturated”.

According to the French health ministry, emergency room visits have doubled over the last 20 years, reaching nearly 21 million in 2016 (the latest year for which figures are available).

The health ministry’s figures show that from 2012 to 2016 alone, emergency room visits in public hospitals (which make up the bulk of France’s hospitals) climbed by 12 percent. Over this same period, the number of paramedic care personnel increased only by 5 percent.

This problem of “chronic understaffing” was highlighted in a 2017 report by the Senate titled, “Emergency rooms: mirror of a healthcare system in dysfunction”.

In response, Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn promised a “support plan” that will focus on “better current investment” and “wage increases, especially at the beginning of their careers”.

'Unprecedented breaking point'

Emergency room workers have complained that a series of closures and budget cuts in recent years have pushed the country’s hospitals to an “unprecedented breaking point”. They are demanding the government create 10,000 new jobs and increase salaries by €300 per month to help ease the strain.

Following a meeting with representatives of the strike, Buzyn announced in September that she would release €70 million in funding, €55 million of which would be used to pay a monthly bonus of €100 to “all emergency room personnel (except for doctors),” starting in July.

Overall, the bonus is expected to benefit around 30,000 people. An additional monthly bonus of €100 will also be given to nurses and orderlies who perform select medical acts sanctioned by a new health reform bill passed in the Senate in September.

The remaining €15 million will be used to allow emergency rooms to “reinforce their paramedic staff during the summer period," the health ministry said in a statement.

But striking hospital workers remain unimpressed by Buzyn's efforts, arguing that they do not go far enough.

The demonstration begins at 2pm local time from Port-Royal and will continue to Les Invalides.

FRANCE 24 with AFP

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