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HEALTH REFORM

France opens major talks on revamping 'exhausted' healthcare system

A patient suffering from COVID-19 is treated in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital in Vannes on May 6, 2020.
A patient suffering from COVID-19 is treated in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital in Vannes on May 6, 2020. REUTERS - Stephane Mahe
2 min

France’s health ministry is on Monday opening consultations with healthcare workers and unions over widespread reforms to improve conditions in hospitals and nursing homes. 

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The “health ségur” video conference, named after the avenue where the Ministry of Health is located, is in line with a promise made by President Emmanuel Macron at the end of March for “a massive investment and upgrading plan" for hospitals. 

Wage increases, working hours and hospital governance will all be addressed in what’s been described as “vast” negotiations that will determine the future of the French healthcare system.

Some 300 representatives of unions and advocacy groups representing medical personnel will be involved in the talks, due to be completed by mid-July.

Medical staff and nurses hold placards reading "We are not robots" as they march in the centre of Bordeaux during a demonstration in December 2019.
Medical staff and nurses hold placards reading "We are not robots" as they march in the centre of Bordeaux during a demonstration in December 2019. GEORGES GOBET / AFP

Outlining his plans for reform to France’s lauded healthcare system, whose weaknesses have been exposed by the Covid-19 crisis, Health Minister Olivier Véran said: “We’ll go fast and we’ll go strong”.

To oversee the negotiations, the government has appointed Nicole Notat, a former head of the moderate CFDT labour union and a supporter of Macron during his 2017 presidential campaign.

She has promised to seek the widest possible consensus in negotiations and not to let her personal position interfere.

Some health workers already doubt that the reforms will live up to the “massive” investment promise, with unions warning the government that exhausted, lowly paid frontline healthcare workers will abandon the talks if challenges are not met.

Before the coronavirus crisis, nurses, doctors and emergency staff spent most of the past year striking and protesting over their pay and working conditions. 

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