Bonuses, overtime and citizenship: How France rewards medical personnel battling Covid

A nurse takes care of a Covid patient in a hospital in Creteil, France.
A nurse takes care of a Covid patient in a hospital in Creteil, France. The Prime Minister has announced that nurses working in ICU will receive a €100 monthly bonus from January 2022. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)
French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Tuesday that nurses working in intensive care units would receive a monthly bonus of €100 in recognition of their hard work during the pandemic, the latest in a series of moves to reward medical staff.

The Covid-19 pandemic has put health services around the world under huge added pressure. 

During a visit to a hospital in Creteil on Tuesday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that all nurses working in intensive care units will receive a €100 monthly bonus from January 2022

He said: “It is the Nation’s just recognition for these health workers whose commitment I have seen on each of my trips.”

Some 24,000 nurses will benefit from these payments.

Castex described health workers as “admirable” people who “face difficult medical challenges and a heavy mental load”. 

France has already made a number of gestures to reward health workers for their efforts during the pandemic.

In May of 2020, just as the first wave of Covid was retreating, all health professionals received a one-off bonus ranging from €500-1,500 depending on whether their hospital was located in a département was particularly impacted by Covid. 

In the run-up to Christmas 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron authorised a special €1,000 bonus for the country’s 320,000 home nurses/carers. 

And earlier this month, the government also announced that health workers would receive twice as much money for overtime work over the Christmas period.

Last year, the government announced that more than 12,000 foreign workers whose jobs put them on the front line during the Covid pandemic had been given citizenship under a special scheme that fast-tracked their applications.

As well as fast-tracking the application process – which normally takes between 18 months and two years – the system for frontline workers also cut the residency requirement from five years to two.

In more long-term measures, there is also the Ségur de la santé, although inspired by the pandemic, this process is aimed at improving the French medical system in the medium and long-term.

In 2020, the government launched a consultation with medical professionals known as the Ségur de la santé with the aims of making medicine a more attractive sector to work in; developing a new investment plan for the sector; streamlining the medical system; and ensuring more patient-friendly access. 

The consultation concluded that €8.2 billion should be spent annually to “revalorise” health work in hospitals and old people’s homes. Nurses, hospital technicians and other health workers in the public and private sector saw pay increases. In the public sector, health workers received an average pay increase of €183 per month.  

Social workers, particularly those that care for disabled people, lamented the fact that they did not also see a pay increase. Midwives across the country are currently on strike over what they describe as insufficient pay. 

A further €19 billion will be spent over the next ten years to modernise health facilities and clear debt in the sector. 

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