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Doctors on strike over health law

A nationwide health sector strike is planned tomorrow as MPs debate again a controversial law on how doctors are paid

A NATIONWIDE strike is being called by health workers’ unions tomorrow in protest against the Health Law that is going through parliament – especially plans to patients’ need to pay up-front for treatment by 2017.

The strike will involve GPs, specialists and surgeons as well as dentists and nurses. Some surgeries will be closed, planned operations in private clinics are likely to be cancelled and serious emergencies redirected from them to public hospitals.

The president of the Federation of Private Hospitals, Lamine Gharbi, told journalists: “There will be serious blockages in certain towns where the doctors are very motivated, such as Toulouse, Lyon and Grenoble.”

However, the Health Ministry says it has taken precautions so “each patient can receive treatment in good conditions.”

Under the Health Law – which has returned to the National Assembly after senators previously struck out some key measures – patients will no longer pay doctors. Instead, doctors’ fees will be refunded by the local Cpams (state health insurance bodies) and from top-up mutuelle insurance companies.

This arrangement is known as le tiers-payant and already applies to pharmacy medicines as well as for doctors’ visits in the case of patients on low-incomes who benefit from the CMU-C or ACS schemes. However, doctors object to it being rolled out to everyone.

The measure was removed by the Senate, but was replaced by MPs this week at a committee stage before the health bill is due for another full MPs debate next week. It has to be signed off before the end of the year and includes various other matters such as a requirement for cigarette packets to have a neutral appearance which does not highlight the manufacturer’s logo or name.

Doctors are unhappy because they say rolling out le tiers-payant will mean longer waits and more complication to be paid, however, they also feel it will leave them less in control.

Some opponents also say the current system works well and if patients think healthcare is ‘free’ it may lead to more people visiting the doctor when it is not strictly necessary.

“The aim is to clearly show the whole of France that private practice doctors are up in arms and won’t let the law go through without doing anything,” said Eric Henry, president of private practice doctors’ union SML.

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