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Health sector protests

Clashes at protests as French medical staff call for more resources and funds

Clashes broke out as French health workers attended a protest in Paris, 16 June 2020
Clashes broke out as French health workers attended a protest in Paris, 16 June 2020 REUTERS - CHARLES PLATIAU

Across France, hundreds of medical staff have turned out in the streets of major cities to express their anger over a lack of government support. From Paris, to Montpellier, union leaders called for more resources and funding.

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But their efforts were overshadowed by the infiltration of some anarchist groups known as black blocs which lead to clashes with police.

After three months of dealing with a major health crisis due to Covid-19, nurses, doctors and other health professionals in France are fed up and they want everyone to know, ministers and public alike.

At least 220 rallies took place throughout the day Tuesday, many of them outside hospitals and clinics. Some medical services went on strike.

In Paris, near Invalides, where a huge crowd gathered, police called for calm as some clashes were reported, and a car was overturned and used as a barricade on a nearby road.

Police used tear gas to break up the crowd and arrested 16 people, accusing so-called 'black blocs" or rogue groups of infiltrating the peaceful demonstration.

Elsewhere, in Nantes, police said on social media that "a violent group" had infiltrated the protest there and threw objects at police.

Hoping to remind the government of its recent promises of more financial support, ten or so unions spearheaded by the Inter-hospital collective (Collectif Inter-Hôpitaux), joined forces for the nationwide protest.

The government began a 'Ségur de la Santé' or consultations with medical sector representatives last month, but it's not certain this will be enough to calm down staff, many of whom have been carrying our rolling strike action for over a year.

Medical workers protest in Angers, as part of nationwide action 16 June 2020
Medical workers protest in Angers, as part of nationwide action 16 June 2020 © Julien Collinet / Twitter

"Manu, watch out the Covid-19 is not Alzheimer's, we won't forget," read one slogan at a rally in the central city of Angers, addressed to President Emmanuel Macron.

On the frontline throughout the Covid-19 crisis, nurses and doctors are calling for a major recruitment drive for medical staff and auxiliary carers in nursing homes and for handicapped patients.

They are also demanding a salary hike, of 300-400 euros, according to unions.

They want to see the government stop closing clinics and reducing the number of hospital beds.

"The soothing speeches by the government, the chocolate medals, and promises of hypothetical bonuses will not suffice. From now on, we need real human resources and a real budget for public health," a statement written by the CGT union said prior to the march.

CGT Union leader Philippe Martinez told france info on Tuesday morning that "the diagnostic has been handed down".

"Now we want answers to our problems; on lack of staff, on diplomas not being recognised, on the reduction of the number of beds," he said.

Consultation period nearly over

Health minister Olivier Véran insists that between now and the beginning of July, they (medical staff) will have all the answers to their questions and demands, which are legitimate."

But the Ségur de la Santé has been criticised by some participating unions, such as the Collectif Inter-Hôpitaux, which said it "regrets the absence of transparency in the discussions."

"Concrete responses must now be given," it said.

Meanwhile, Sud Santé union said it had decided to end its part of the negotiations, branding it a "vast public relations campaign".

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