30,000 German doctors take part in protest rally

24th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

24 March 2006, BERLIN - An estimated 30,000 doctors with private practices took part in a rally in Berlin on Friday to press demands for better pay and less bureaucracy.

24 March 2006

BERLIN - An estimated 30,000 doctors with private practices took part in a rally in Berlin on Friday to press demands for better pay and less bureaucracy.

The protest is about a new law designed to save the public health system 1.3 billion euros (1.56 billion dollars) a year which doctors say will restrict payments to physicians who prescribe expensive medication.

The rally launches a week-long protest which is expected to see thousands of private practices closed from Monday, although hospitals will remain open.

The strike comes amid government wrangles over revamping the country's healthcare system which is one of the toughest domestic political issues facing Germany's new chancellor Angela Merkel.

Her own Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) have called for imposing a flat, monthly insurance rate for all 82 million people living in Germany.

But this is opposed by Merkel's coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), who want to essentially abolish private health insurance companies in order to bring higher earners into the public health system.

About 8 million people in Germany have private insurance, while the rest are covered through the public health "sickness funds."

Doctors have warned that many practices are kept afloat by the higher fees that can be charged to private patients. The lower fees paid by public health insurance patients are mainly set by the state.

The dispute coincides with a separate one by doctors at state-run hospitals who have staged a series of walkouts demanding better pay and conditions.

The walkout started when the association which represents university hospital employers sought to increase the official working week from 38.5 to 42 hours.

The doctors' lobby group Marburger Bund, said this was tantamount to a decrease in pay and called instead for a 30 per cent wage increase.

In a related development, a strike by public service workers over working hours neared the end of its seventh week with no end in sight after unions and authorities failed to find agreement in arbitration.

The dispute has seen rubbish pile up streets and kindergartens close in the worst-hit state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

DPA

Subject: German news

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