French health workers hold nationwide strike over shortage of staff, resources
French health workers associated with nine major unions and organizations took part in nationwide protest rallies on Tuesday over the shortage of staff and resources.
Protest rallies and strike action began in public hospitals and healthcare centers in at least 50 French towns early on Tuesday morning before reaching the health ministry in Paris in the afternoon.
Health staff, some wearing white medical coats, brandished placards with messages such as “Hire more and pay us more, it’s urgent!”
In a statement, the unions said the situation has reached a critical phase due to a lack of staff and resources and sheer callousness on the part of concerned authorities.
They warned that access to primary care is becoming “increasingly complicated” and hospitals are “no longer fulfilling their role as a public service of last resort”.
They further said that the protests were aimed at “raising awareness” about the "situation of the public hospital and also that of the medico-social and social sectors”.
“Not a single department is spared, our public hospitals are in the process of dying for lack of resources,” Pierre Wach, head of the CGT union in the eastern city Strasbourg, was quoted as saying in media reports.
Due to a lack of medical staff, more than a hundred services have been forced to limit their activity or are preparing to do so, according to figures released by the Samu-Urgences de France (SUdF) organization last month.
"The Covid-19 crisis has totally exhausted the health workers who were already at their wit's end," Thierry Amouroux of the national union for nurses (SNPI) wrote on social media.
"We were made to believe that things would change but the disillusion is extremely bitter".
Tuesday’s protests were held in Paris in front of the health ministry as well as in Grenoble, Marseille, Nantes, and Toulouse among the main ones, but also smaller ones such as Aurillac, Epernay, or Cherbourg, according to reports.
The protests came only one week after recently re-elected President Emmanuel Macron ordered a probe into which emergency units need immediate help with people in the sector.
Warning that there was no time to lose, Macron said on Friday that his review would identify “where there is need, emergency department by emergency department, ambulance service by ambulance service, region by region."
Opposition politicians and unions, however, accuse Macron of playing for time until after the legislative elections on June 12 and 19, while some polls show his absolute majority could be at risk.
“It is past time for inquiries,” Laurent Berger, head of the powerful CFDT trade union confederation, wrote in left-wing daily Liberation.