French surgeons set up exile in British sea resort

10th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

ASHFORD, England, May 10 (AFP) - Some 350 French surgeons, far fewer than the 800 expected, began a four-day symbolic "exile" in England to protest against falling income and soaring insurance rates.

ASHFORD, England, May 10 (AFP) - Some 350 French surgeons, far fewer than the 800 expected, began a four-day symbolic "exile" in England to protest against falling income and soaring insurance rates.  

"Unfortunately, May is a month with a heavy surgical workload and many colleagues have been requisitioned to make sure health care continues," said Professor Philippe Cuq, a spokesman for the group Surgeons of France.  

The protesters plan to spend the rest of the week at the southern English resort of Camber Sands.  

Surgeons of France called off a similar action last August after reaching a compensation package with the government but now claims its terms have not been implemented.  

"The agreement was never put into effect. Surgeons feel betrayed and are determined to show it," said spokesman Philippe Cuq.  

Claiming to represent an estimated 16,000 surgeons working in private practice, Surgeons of France says that fees have remained static for 15 years while insurance payments have gone up tenfold thanks to the growing number of malpractice suits.  

Under August's deal with Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, an extra 52 million euros (66 million dollars) was to be made available last year for surgeons from the national health insurance fund, but Surgeons of France claims the money has failed to materialise.  

Surgeons of France had said earlier that some 800 practitioners from across the country had signed up for the protest, but Tuesday morning only some 350 people boarded a specially chartered train at the Gare du Nord in Paris.  

Professor Cuq said that surgeons were little used to demonstrate which would explain why nobody sported banners or placards to express "their disgust at (the disrespect of) the government agreements.  

"We're not here to take a couple of days off, all this comes at a financial and professional cost for us surgeons," he added.  

However surgeons were surprised that they were awaited by television cameras at their arrival at Ashford train station.  

"I think that the English are astonished to see French doctors arrive when our health system is supposed to be a model for Europe," said Professor Jacques Chameaud, a gynaecologist and surgeon from the south-western French city of Limoges.  

"What is true is that the English system is becoming more and more attractive for French medics because it is changing and being reformed," Chameaud said, regretting that "nothing (in France) can be reformed or negotiated".  

During their stay at Camber Sands which will end Friday the surgeons plan to "lay the ground for a new trade union that will defend the interests of surgeons and all French people".  

"The only way to again motivate young people to become surgeons (...) is to make the profession more financially attractive," said another spokesman, Professor Xavier Gouyou-Beauchamp. "Otherwise the English exile will not be symbolic but definitive for future doctors".

© AFP

Subject: French News

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