French doctors strike against health reforms

Doctors in France went on strike on Friday in a bid to pressure the government into dropping its controversial package of health reforms. Health professionals are set to take to the streets in protest on Sunday.

French doctors strike against health reforms
Planned health reforms are not going down well with doctors. Photo: AFP

On Friday it was the turn of France's independent doctors (Médecin Libéraux) who held a strike aimed at putting more pressure on the government to ditch its reforms. The strike comes at a time when hospitals are being stretched to the limit.

“We have decided to toughen our stance,” said Eric Henry, spokesman of the “Movement for health for all”.

Henry lambasted the fact the government have been deaf to the concerns raised by health professionals over the reforms put forward by Health Minister Marisol Touraine.

The collective Movement for Health for All was created in February to bring health professionals together under one umbrella group under the slogan: “No to the health reform, united for future health”.

As well the independent doctors strike which will last until Monday, the collective has called on all health professionals, dentists, physiotherapists and nurses to close their surgeries on Saturday.

“The French government will have to make do with the hospital system. The strike will clog up emergency wards and show the government that without the doctors, the health system doesn’t work.

Health professionals are set to turn out in huge numbers on Sunday for a demonstration against the health reforms in Paris.

Family doctors held a long-running strike over Christmas, which was joined by specialist professionals as well as doctors working in hospital emergency wards.

SEE ALSO: French hospital crisis: 'Just like Thatcher's Britain'

After two weeks of industrial action in protest against planned government health reforms, family doctors (GPs) then turned up the heat by promising to create a bureaucratic mess for health authorities and insurance companies.

The planned reform that has provoked the ire of the family doctors is the change to the system of payment which will see an end to patients handing over cash up front for an appointment. Instead doctors will be reimbursed directly by insurance companies, whether public or private.

Jean-Paul Ortiz from the Confederation of French Medical Unions (CSMF), the main union behind the protests, told The Local the change is “unacceptable” for those in his profession.

“Both doctors and patients in France will lose their liberty and independence. We will be dictated to by insurance companies and depend on them for our salaries," he said.

“We will be forced to spend hours checking all the reimbursements which are normally full of errors. Most doctors don’t have secretaries and we just don’t have the time to do it,” he said.


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French customs officers strike over job cuts

Customs officers across France will walk out on Thursday in protest at job cuts that unions say will “weaken the customs network”.

French customs officers strike over job cuts

The national strike on Thursday, March 10th is expected to lead to delays at ports, airports and on the Eurostar.

The strike, which will include a rally outside the National Assembly building in Paris, was called by the CFDT-Douane and has the support of other unions. 

A work-to-rule protest over pay and conditions by customs officers in 2019, under the shadow of Brexit, led to delays and disruption at airports, as well as ports including Calais and Dunkirk, and on Eurostar trains.

Unions are calling on the government to axe plans to switch responsibility for import duty collection to the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques by 2024, at the cost of 700 customs’ officer jobs – and, according to strikers, tens of billions of euros to State coffers.

“We are asking for the reforms to be stopped, mainly that of the transfer of taxation, which is disorganising the network with the elimination of nearly a thousand jobs,” CFDT-Douane’s secretary general David-Olivier Caron said.

The planned job cuts come after years of restructuring and streamlining that has seen thousands of positions disappear, the unions say, when customs fraud and smuggling is rising because of a lack of resources.