Nursing unions want to highlight the malaise that has hit their profession that they claim has gone unnoticed by the Ministry of Health.
Nathalie Depoire, president of the nurses’ union Coordiantion Nationale Infirmiere (CNI), says that “working conditions have deteriorated so much that the situation is no longer tolerable”.
“There are alarm bells everywhere, many colleagues are on sick leave. The pressure cooker is about to explode,” she said.
“Patients' lives are in danger just as much as those of the nurses,” Depoire added.
Those who do not join Wednesday’s protest at the annual conference near Marseille have been asked to wear black armbands at work.
During Wednesday’s gathering nurses will hold a minute’s silence for their five colleagues who took their own lives since June.
The deaths occurred in the towns and cities of Toulouse, Le Mans, Reims, Le Havre and Saint-Calais.
Only one of the suicides has officially been attributed to the job, but nurses are convinced that they are all linked to the worsening conditions at work.
“At Le Havre the nurse clearly put the blame on the hospital in a letter she wrote. She was transferred to a service that she didn’t know anything about, without any help,” said Depoire.
“And in Reims two nurses in the same service took their own lives,” she added.
The list of the union’s grievances is long: working hours and rhythm, sheer work loads, demands to be versatile but with no help offered, skills that are not taken into account and damaging government cut backs.
Hospitals in France have been asked to make some €3 billion worth of cuts by 2017.
“Work burdens are increasing year by year. The health ministry is clear – we need to make savings and we will make them on staff. Staff leaving will not be replaced,” said Depoire.
France’s health minister Marisol Touraine has vowed to come up with a plan in the autumn for health professionals, but nurses say it is all too late.