People working in French testing laboratories have been called to strike for at least three days from today (November 14) over a conflict with the government about test tariffs.
This strike will be ‘renewable’ and means that no tests are being carried out in nine out of every 10 French laboratories.
This means that all ‘non-urgent’ meetings, for example, blood tests, Covid-19 PCR tests, urine tests and other ‘standard’ and non-imperative procedures are likely to be cancelled or rescheduled.
In emergencies, patients will be directed to clinical or hospital settings, which remain open, the Alliance de la biologie médicale (ABM) has said.
This union represents 90% of laboratory biologists, and has predicted that participation in the strike will be significant. Michel Pax, director general of Les biologistes indépendants (LBI), has also said that “at least 90%, or even 100% of our network” of 650 laboratories are expected to take part.
The profession has been protesting for the past month over the government’s projet de loi de financement de la Sécurité sociale (social security budget bill), which is currently being debated by the Senate.
This bill includes a measure requiring testing laboratories to reduce their tariffs for common types of tests, apart from Covid. The government justified this by arguing that laboratory revenues have increased over recent years because of the Covid pandemic.
In this way, the state is aiming to save €250million in 2023, an objective which has provoked anger among laboratories.
“This will not only put big networks at risk but also independent laboratories,” Mr Pax said. “They now only represent 35% of French laboratories. This measure will accelerate their disappearance.”
Testing laboratories already stopped publishing the results of Covid tests for state records on October 28, making it difficult for health authorities to follow the evolution of the virus spread. Individual patients have still, however, been able to access their results.
It then emerged that the economies testing laboratories are now expected to make will be increased to €280million in 2023 and €332million per year between 2024 and 2026.
Assurance maladie has denied this, adding that it is “deeply” regrettable that a strike has been called.
France’s Senate has suggested that the savings demanded of laboratories could be set at €250million for 2023, and that the amount for 2024-26 could be negotiated at a later date.