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French hospitals face chaos due to soaring demand as doctors extend strike

A rally organized by Doctors for Tomorrow and the Confederation of French Physicians' Unions (CSMF), in Paris on December 1, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Hospitals in France are on the brink of chaos amid the ongoing strike by doctors, now extended for another week, as emergency units struggle to keep up with soaring demand.

General medical practitioners in the country, members of the "Médecins pour Demain" (Doctors for Tomorrow), have been on strike since December 26 demanding an increase in consultation fees and better working conditions

The strike has now been extended to January 8 with a protest march set for Thursday to the Health Ministry in central Paris.

The Medecins Pour Demain collective said in a statement on Monday that the strike was extended "because the government has not bothered to listen to our claims", blaming the authorities for not paying heed to their demands.

The doctors are demanding their consultation fees be doubled, from the current 25 euros to 50 euros. They also want better working conditions, notably by being paid enough to enable them to employ administrative assistants.

“On the contrary, we were even unfairly criticized by our minister,” the statement said, referring to remarks made by Health Minister Francois Braun last week.

Braun slammed doctors for protesting at "a time of extreme difficulty for the health system", as France is grappling with a surge in cases of bronchiolitis, flu, and COVID-19.

The strike is backed by several major trade bodies, including the Federation of Independent Doctors, the Union of Doctors, and Young Doctors.

The Medecins Pour Demain collective was formed in September 2022 and aimed at drawing attention to the shortage of doctors in the country and the difficult working conditions they face.

A similar walkout took place earlier last month.

The French healthcare system is facing an unprecedented crisis. Last summer, medical workers staged a nationwide strike, demanding higher wages and denouncing the healthcare policies adopted by the government.

The fight with the government for better wages comes as France has been grappling with rising inflation amid worsening economic conditions.

Similar strikes have also hit other European countries, including the United Kingdom, in recent months amid a cost-of-living crisis.

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