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Angry French doctors to close surgeries en masse

With a parliamentary debate on controversial health reforms kicking off on Tuesday, doctors around the country are due to close their surgeries to show their disgust at a new system they say will cripple France's healthcare service.

Angry French doctors to close surgeries en masse
A scene from an earlier demonstration against the reforms, in Lyon. Photo: AFP
Tuesday is not the day to be ill in France. 
 
As many as 80 percent of surgeries will be shut in some areas across France on Tuesday as French doctors continue their protests against health reforms put forward by Health Minister Marisol Touraine. 
 
As the bill goes before parliament doctors have called for a "Journée Santé Morte", which roughly translates as "Day of Dead Health", in which they are calling on doctors to close surgeries and join protests across the country.
 
The planned reform that have provoked the ire of the GPs is the change to the system of payments 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.
 
Doctors have already taken to the street this month in protest, claiming that the system will encourage late payments, will complicate matters for busy GPs, and will end up encouraging members of the public to visit the doctor for trivial matters.
 
 
Jean-Paul Ortiz from the Confederation of French Medical Unions (CSMF), the main union behind the protests, told The Local recently that 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."
 
Despite the repeated protests, Minister Touraine has insisted the plans will go ahead.
 
She told France 2 radio that the system will be beneficial for France as it will facilitate access to health care for the public, adding that doctors worried about losing out on payments can rest assured that late fees will be introduced after seven days. 

The new system, which, will come into effect in France in 2017. 

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GENEVA

Is Switzerland ‘pilfering’ health workers from France during pandemic?

Officials in the Haute-Savoie area of France have accused private Swiss health clinics of poaching essential healthcare workers.

Is Switzerland 'pilfering' health workers from France during pandemic?
Health care workers from France prefer to work on the Swiss side of the border. Photo by AFP

The headline in Switzerland's Le Temps newspaper reads: “Geneva is pilfering our nurses”.

It comes from an interview with a French MP who laments how France is losing health workers to its neighbour at the height of a health crisis.

“The behaviour of some hospital administrators in Switzerland is totally unacceptable in the context of the health crisis”, Haute-Savoie’s deputy Martial Saddier said in an interview with Le Temps newspaper. 

He was referring to a practice of Swiss clinics recruiting health workers in France which French officials like Saddier says has caused a shortage of personnel in French hospitals in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Saddier denounced several private clinics in Geneva for actively recruiting nursing staff from Haute-Savoie, luring them with salaries that are about two and a half times higher than those paid in the French region.

Though the phenomenon of medical workers from Haute-Savoie ‘migrating’ to Geneva is not new — 60 percent of nursing staff at Geneva’s university hospitals (HUG) live in France — Saddier said these recruitments should not happen during the pandemic. 

“While the number of infected people may be high in Geneva, Haute-Savoie is not spared either, with rates among the highest in France. We need all our vital forces”, he said.

Olivier Teissèdre, director of Hôpital privé Pays de Savoie (HPPS) pointed out that already during the first wave of Covid-19, “350 of our caregivers were recruited in Geneva, which put us in great difficulty. Today I lost 4 percent of my staff and had to shut down a night shift”.

“Now the shortage of caregivers is crucially felt because the care of Covid-19 patients is particularly heavy”, he added.

READ MORE: IN PICTURES: Swiss flags hang over protesting French ski village 

At the start of the second wave, the HPSS set up a partnership with another Haute-Savoie medical facility, the Alpes-Léman public hospital.

“But we no longer have enough employees to maintain this partnership because there is too much movement of staff toward Switzerland”, Teissèdre said.

At the start of the pandemic, an agreement was reached with the Geneva authorities to stop recruiting medical personnel from France, but this commitment only concerns public hospitals. No such pact was made with private clinics.

Laurent Paoliello, spokesperson for Geneva’s Health Department said that while HUG, which is a public hospital, has respected the hiring freeze, the canton can’t impose similar restrictions on recruitment policies of private establishments.

“However, we consider it inappropriate to loot the region next door, especially during a pandemic”, he said.

Although the Haute-Savoie officials say that private hospitals have placed ads in a local newspaper, Le Dauphiné libéré, seeking French health care workers, Geneva’s clinics deny advertising in France.

“We only recruit through our site, or on Jobup.ch, as well as on social networks”, said Magali Dauwalder, spokesperson for the Hirslanden group of private hospitals, which manages La Colline et les Grangettes clinics in Geneva.


READ MORE: Switzerland rejects further coronavirus lockdown despite 'worrying' situation 

 

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