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Medics strike against changes

Certain doctors’ groups are on the march against limits on their freedom and pay

MANY operating theatres will be out of action today as surgeons strike over perceived threats to their freedom and pay.

Several medical unions are calling strikes, including hospital surgeons’ union Bloc, although the three largest doctors’ unions, which recently came to an agreement over fees with the health minister, are not involved.

About 70% of private clinics are expected to be affected, especially in Ile-de-France, Paca and Rhône-Alpes – some closing, some putting off operations – as well as some public hospitals. However emergency wards will stay open, said Paris public hospitals body AP-HP.

The campaigners are opposed to the recent agreement placing new limits on doctors’ rights to charge fees higher than the basic state tariffs (called dépassements d’honoraires) – for example Bloc thinks surgeons should be able to charge more than was agreed.

Concerns have been raised by some politicians and consumer groups that there are too many doctors practicing dépassements, especially in certain specialisms, and that too many take advantage of these flexible rates by setting fees very high, sometimes several times the basic ones.

However the campaigners think the government has harmed their image by focusing too much on the issue. It is “trying to break the sacred doctor-patient link,” said UFML union president Jérôme Marty.

Hospital doctors are also demanding new rules limiting their hours – they say their right to rest after their 60-hour weeks must be respected.

Other issues revolve around changes they fear might be in the pipeline. They insist on the complete freedom of young doctors to work wherever they want and oppose any legal changes which could make patients use doctors selected by the top-up insurers so as to be better reimbursed.

Protest marches are planned in Paris today.

Calling for strikes along with Bloc are Fédération des Médecins de France (a union for both GPs and specialists which supports doctors being free to set their own fees) and Union Française pour une Médecine Libre, a new group behind Facebook campaign Les médecins ne sont pas des pigeons (doctors are not mugs – inspired by the other recent “Pigeons” campaign for entrepreneurs).

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