We want money not medals, say protesting French health workers

PARIS (Reuters) – Hundreds of healthcare workers demonstrated outside a hospital in Paris on Thursday to demand better pay and more resources for a public health sector on the frontline of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Doctors and nurses wearing face masks, clanging bells and banging pans gathered in front of the Robert Debre Hospital, in the north of the city, some carrying banners reading: “no medals, no tear gas but beds and money!”

The rally was taking place as the government is working on a new support plan for healthcare workers who have been at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Health workers have long complained about low salaries and insufficient staffing at French hospitals, leading to a wave of strikes over the past year to demand funding increases.

The coronavirus pandemic has further exposed the problems faced by the sector with medical facilities in one of the world’s richest countries left short of staff, masks and ventilators at the start of the crisis.

“The difficulties of public hospitals started quite long ago,” said intensive care pediatrician Stephane Dauger.

“Everybody said that all went fine for the COVID (crisis) and that we have been extraordinary, which is a fact, since we’ve done more than we could have imagined … but the difficulties have persisted,” he said.

The coronavirus outbreak has killed more than 28,000 people in France, though the number of daily deaths has fallen sharply since the peak of the outbreak.

The government has announced that all staff working in public hospitals and nursing homes in the regions hardest hit by the virus will get a 1,500-euro bonus from the state.

On Monday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe promised healthcare workers further, significant pay hikes as part of the planned reform of the public health system.

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