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UPDATE: "Doctors strike called off"

Health minister Marisol Touraine declares medics' protest "lifted" after signing working hours directive

HEALTH minister Marisol Touraine has declared the Christmas holiday strike by doctors and medical staff "over" after signing a directive on working hours.

The protest, which symbolically started in accident and emergency departments, started today was in protest against a new health bill due to be debated in the National Assembly early in the new year.

Speaking after today's Council of Ministers meeting, Ms Touraine said: "I have just signed the statement regarding the organisation of their work time that will allow them to lift their strike notice (...) I am delighted with the positive outcome of these discussions."

She described negotiations as "useful and fruitful", and added: "The lifting of emergency strike notice is obviously great news."

But Christophe Prudhomme, spokesman for the emergency physician and Amuf EMS Seine-Saint-Denis, insisted it was not up to the minister to declare the strike over.

The protest had started in emergency rooms across the country today, with staff there are signalling their support by wearing badges rather than staging a walkout.

ER medics had demanded a reduction in working hours from a maximum of 60 a week to 48.

From tomorrow, GPs and doctors offering specialist medical services were due to close in protest over certain aspects of the proposed bill, which would bring an end to patients paying for consultations up front and also allow pharmacists to perform vaccinations, a procedure that is currently only carried out by doctors.

Private doctors. meanwhile, were set to join the strike on December 31, denouncing what they have described as the "unbearable nationalisation" of medical care.

Hospitals in and around Paris had 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.

Despite expected problems receiving treatment over the holiday period, a survey published in Le Figaro this morning found that 63% of French people supported the doctors’ strike.

Elsewhere, a series of festive strikes have hit France. As reported, easyJet cabin crew have called a strike over the Christmas holiday, while Amazon employees, those working for security company Brink's, and are also planning a walkout.

And since Friday, souvenir stores at the Eiffel Tower have been closed in a protest over pay.

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