Pushed to ‘breaking point’: French ER workers on strike

French emergency room workers protested Tuesday against a chronic staff shortage that they say is pushing hospitals to breaking point and putting patients’ lives at risk.

The protest was part of ongoing strikes which began in Paris in mid-March and have since spread to 95 emergency rooms. Paramedics, doctors, nurses and reception staff have all been taking part.

They say they are being forced to work long hours to compensate for staff shortages, while the lack of resources may already have cost lives.

In December last year, a 55-year-old patient died at a Paris hospital while awaiting treatment.

An investigation into the death found that protocol was not followed by hospital staff because the emergency room was overwhelmed with patients that day.

The strikes are largely symbolic as French law prohibits emergency workers from walking out.

Tuesday’s strike came as France’s set was set to vote on a new health bill which aims to increase staff levels and better manage hospital resources. But unions have dismissed the bill, put forward by health minister Agnès Buzyn, as inadequate.

They are demanding 10,000 new staff posts and a €300 monthly pay rise for employees.