On Tuesday, French health workers protested all over France, demanding greater pay and more staff for services that are already overburdened, just days before the country’s parliamentary elections.
Despite the fact that President Emmanuel Macron, who was recently re-elected, has launched an investigation into which emergency units require immediate assistance, industry insiders warn that there is no time to waste.
“Not a single department is spared; our public hospitals are on the verge of dying due to a lack of resources,” said Pierre Wach, the chairman of the CGT, a powerful labor union in Strasbourg’s eastern district.
Protests began Tuesday morning at hospitals and continued into the afternoon outside the Ministry of Health in Paris, where personnel, some dressed in white medical coats, held signs with messages such as “Hire more and pay us more, it’s important!”
However, attendance was lower than expected, with between 200 and 300 people in the capital and similar numbers in locations such as Grenoble, Nantes, Toulouse, and Bordeaux.
“It’s been a complete disaster for years, and we’re tired of it, Our working circumstances are appalling, and patients are suffering the effects,” said Ronan Treguer, a Nantes-based child psychiatric nurse.
“I love my profession, but it’s hard to stay motivated because we can’t do it properly anymore,” said Nathalie Niort, a nurse demonstrating outside the hospital in Clermont-Ferrand.
After years of Covid-19 strain, the casualty workers’ association Samu-Urgences de France discovered in a May poll that at least 120 accident and emergency hospitals around the country had already cut back on operations or were about to do so.
Macron told regional newspapers on Friday that his review, which would be directed by the group’s CEO Francois Braun, will determine “where there is need, emergency department by emergency department, ambulance service by ambulance service, region by region.”
However, opposition lawmakers and labor organizations have accused him of biding his time until the June 12 and 19 legislative elections, which some surveys suggest could put the president’s absolute majority in jeopardy.
“It’s past time for investigations,” says the author. In the left-wing daily Liberation, Laurent Berger, the chairman of the powerful CFDT trade union confederation, called for “urgent negotiations on how personnel are organized” since hospitals were “nearly knocked out.”
Last week, Braun stated that instead of writing “yet another report,” he would “write the prescription” for hospitals in need.
Better remuneration for night and weekend labor, or — more controversially — a system for sifting calls to the emergency services to identify the most serious, are among the reforms he has already proposed to newly-installed Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon.
“To get through the summer, we need to turn to crisis management mode,” Thomas Mesnier, a Macron supporter who is also an emergency doctor, wrote in the JDD weekly.
A summer heatwave, which has killed old people in previous years, or a new flare-up of Covid, according to some emergency professionals, might throw hospitals into disarray.