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Philippe lines up salary hikes for nurses in post-pandemic health review

French prime minister Edouard Philippe said it was a good moment to re-evaluate health services as the country emerged from the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
French prime minister Edouard Philippe said it was a good moment to re-evaluate health services as the country emerged from the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Michel Euler/Pool via REUTERS

Thousands of nurses will see their wages increased under a reform of the health service announced on Monday.

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Nicknamed Ségur de la santé - in a reference to the Parisian avenue where the health ministry is located - the review was launched on Monday by the prime minister, Edouard Philippe, and the health minister, Olivier Véran.

“I can say without any ambiguity, the increase will be significant,” said Philippe echoing President Emmanuel Macron who emerged from a trip to a hospital last month and promised massive investment in the health service.

Philippe later said on social media that it would be inexcusable not to seek out changes after the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting pay for France's 700,000 nurses stands at 1,500 euros a month. Earlier this year, nurses and other health workers who were complaining about low salaries and insufficient staff at hospitals, went on strike to ask for more cash.

Demands for cash

Their demands though were rejected by a government intent on reducing the amount of money it ploughed into the sector.

But France’s doctor’s, nurses and hospital ancillary staff have effectively become national treasures during the coronavirus.

Often tending to the sick and dying with inadequate clothing or face protection, citizens have acknowledged their heroism and selflessness as the death toll has risen to nearly 29,000 with rounds of applause from apartment balconies.

Peddling parsimony to the public for such a munificent collective would backfire politically for Macron and Philippe.

Reconfiguration of care sector

"The key word here is pragmatism,” said Philippe of the review which is likely to last until July.

“I cannot say now what these discussions will lead to but I've said that we must remove all constraints, whatever they are.”

Last November Macron’s administration promised an additional 1.5 billion euros for hospitals over the next three years, including bonuses for thousands of nurses.

The government also agreed to absorb 10 billion euros of hospital debt, giving the system the ability to take on new loans for investments.

“But we must go further,” added Philippe. “A part of this programme must be dedicated to investing in regional services and to improve the lines between hospitals and medico-social services. There must also be better links between the public and private sectors."

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