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Medical test centres close in France as lab biologists stage strike

Biologists working in France's medical test centres began a strike on Monday which will hit patients across the country . Here is what you need to know.

Medical test centres close in France as lab biologists stage strike
A French lab worker treats samples before centrifugation in 2020. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP)

Most people in France will have to wait a few days to get a blood test after the union representing biologists who work in medical test centres, known in French as laboratoires, announced a ” rolling strike” starting on Monday.

Workers are protesting the government’s plans to cut funding for test centres as part of the 2023 Social Security budget.

With nearly 3,900 of the 4,100 laboratories across France affected, the strike was set to run three days, lasting through Wednesday, with the possibility of it being extended.

Patients will be impacted across the country, with “90 and 95 percent [of laboratories] are participating” according to the head of the union for biologists.

This means that patients seeking routine blood or urine tests and other procedures will have to wait until testing centres reopen. However, dialysis treatments will continue to be provided and those requiring testing for chemotherapy will be provided for at-home for via private nurses.

For those looking to get a Covid-19 test, the option will still be available in pharmacies, particularly for antigenic testing. In case of emergency, patients are advised to go to the nearest emergency department. 

The industrial action impacted both small, independent laboratories as well as those represented by large private groups, such as (Biogroup, Cerba, Eurofins, Inovie, Synlab. 

Test centre medical workers took action in response to the French government’s plans to reduce their budget by €250 million, as part of the new Social Security budget for 2023, specifically by decreasing pricing for certain procedures, which would impact laboratories’ profits.

However, the French government has argued in favour of the plans, stating that laboratories strongly increased their sales during the pandemic.

The French Health Minister François Braun accused the biologists of “taking the population hostage” after unions announced plans for the strike last week. 

Braun told AFP that despite union’s plans for industrial action, he hoped to maintain the objective of decreasing laboratories’ budgets, adding that “with a gross surplus of €3 billion, they can make an effort of €250 million.”

The head of the national union representing biologists, François Blanchecotte, told AFP that “we all agree that we must participate in the war effort and give this money back to the social security system,” and then added that the disagreement lies with the fact that “the government wants to get this money back by lowering the rates for our procedures. It’s as if we had a bonus and wanted to lower our salaries permanently.”

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HEALTH

France declares epidemic as flu cases soar

The French health authority has declared a flu epidemic, while the country also faces a new wave of Covid cases and bronchitis is affecting young children.

France declares epidemic as flu cases soar

Santé publique France made the declaration of an epidemic on Wednesday, adding that three deaths have been recorded due to flu, while 20 patients are in intensive care.

With Covid-19 and bronchitis cases also currently high, health experts have urged people to get vaccinated – especially those over 65. “It is important for people at risk to be vaccinated against flu without delay,” insisted Santé publique France.

READ ALSO Flu vaccine opens to all adults in France: What you need to know

Cases have hit full epidemic levels in Brittany and Normandy, while the virus is in pre-epidemic phase in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Grand Est, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Centre-Val de Loire, Hauts-de-France and Île-de-France, with an increasing number of people heading to hospitals’ emergency departments with influenza-like illness. It is expected to cross over to epidemic levels in the coming days and weeks.

READ ALSO French PM calls on commuters to wear masks as Covid cases rise

It has already hit French overseas territories including Martinique, Mayotte and Reunion.

Flu has hit epidemic levels much earlier than last season, when it did not peak until early Spring. 

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