Doctors strike partially lifted

Health minister Marisol Touraine

Emergency room doctors lift their strike threat following "historic" agreement on working hours

EMERGENCY room doctors are set to lift their strike threat today following what unions called a "historic" agreement on working hours.

But the doctors' holiday walkout is not completely resolved. GPs across France have gone on strike today as planned.

Doctors in emergency rooms had demanded a cut in working hours to 48 hours per week – down from the current 60 – and for overtime to be granted to anyone working more than 39 hours a week, and are also concerned about a raft of health reforms set to be debated by the National Assembly early in the new year.

At a press conference this morning, unions representing medical staff in A&E departments across France said they would call off their dispute.

As reported, Ms Touraine yesterday said that she had signed a working-hours agreement and that she had signed a statement regarding the organisation of their work time that - she added - would allow doctors to lift their strike notice.

General practitioners, who are set to strike until December 31, want to see an increase the average fee for a consultation from €23 to €25.

Their other grievances include:

• The planned roll-out of le tiers payant a system whereby patients have nothing to pay upfront and doctors must be refunded by local health bodies and by one of several hundred different top-up mutuelles. Unof-CSMY said the change of payment system, “will cost the state nothing but will mean an unavoidable extra time spent on administration, and will put surgeries at risk due to the inevitable payment delays”.

• A proposal that pharmacists could give vaccine jabs. Unof president Luc Duquesnel has previously called this a move towards “low-cost” medicine which was “pulling our profession apart”. Vaccinations should be doctor-prescribed so they can check on any incompatibility with the patient’s conditions and medications, he said.

Patients of surgeries that close over Christmas needing urgent care will have to make use of out-of-hours services as at evenings and weekends, or consult their local pharmacy.

Meanwhile, health minister Ms Touraine has said she is “confident” that patients will receive necessary care during the strike, and said that any person who requires treatment should seek it. “Hospitals will welcome anyone who needs to be treated,” she said.

Hospitals in and around Paris have been ordered to activate a crisis management plan to help deal with patients who would normally have visited to their GP but will head to hospital instead for treatment.

Anyone who does have to go to hospital for treatment is warned that waiting times are likely to be longer, as medics deal with the influx of GPs’ patients.

Photo: Ludovic Lepeltier / Wikimedia Commons

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