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'Ségur de la santé' bids to reform French healthcare

Consultation process follows promise made by Emmanuel Macron at the height of the coronavirus crisis

An 'urgent' two-month consultation will examine future of health services in France in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, health minister Olivier Véran has announced.

The consultation - named the 'Ségur de la santé', after Avenue de Ségur, the Parisian street on which France's health ministry is based - was due to begin on Monday afternoon, with a video conference of 300 trades union leaders and healthcare representatives.

The process follows a promise from President Emmanuel Macron, who announced "a massive investment and upgrading plan for all careers will be built for the hospital at the end of this crisis" at the end of March, and comes in the shadow of a called-for protest by healthcare workers on June 16.

The discussions, coordinated by former CFDT General Secretary Nicole Notat, will last seven weeks. They will take the form of "working groups" and "experience sharing" on Covid-19, according to the ministry.

The aim is to "draw conclusions" from these consultations "by mid-July at the latest," according to Mr Véran, who has said that he wants to include some of the measures adopted in the 2021 Social Security budget which is to be presented at the end of September.

Working hours and salaries for healthcare staff, both of which have been sources of tension for decades, will be at the heart of expectations. The reform "will involve calling into question certain constraints that prevent those who wish to do so from working more," warned Mr Véran.

But remuneration is the "emergency," insisted Frédéric Valletoux, president of the French Hospital Federation (FHF), who is calling for a real "new deal" for hospitals.

"The real tribute to carers would be not to mock them with broken promises," Mr Valletoux warned in this weekend's Journal du Dimanche.

"Mr. President, show us that we can count on you," urged a group of health workers and paramedics, including the Inter-Urgency and Inter-Hospital collectives, in an open letter to President Macron, published in Libération.

Unions have, however, warned of the short timescale of the consultation. "If everything has to be completed by 15 July, the room for manoeuvre for negotiations will be very limited," says Didier Birig, General Secretary of FO Santé Sociales.

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