French surgeons stand firm on UK 'exile' strike

19th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 18 (AFP) - Some 2,000 French private-practice surgeons will lay down their scalpels and leave for England for a week to protest soaring insurance rates and low pay unless the government provides relief, strike organisers said Wednesday.

PARIS, Aug 18 (AFP) - Some 2,000 French private-practice surgeons will lay down their scalpels and leave for England for a week to protest soaring insurance rates and low pay unless the government provides relief, strike organisers said Wednesday.

"Another 1,500 to 2,000 have signed a declaration saying 'I will stop working' during that week," Philippe Cuq, of the French Surgeons Collective, told AFP.

Leaving the country would shield the doctors from a French law requiring them to report to work if requested.

Discussions in recent weeks between the collective and the government have deadlocked, with no obvious sign of a resolution.

The doctors are seeking a cap on malpractice insurance premiums, which they say have increased tenfold in less than two decades, and a sharp increase in state-regulated fees that have remained, they say, frozen for 15 years.

Even if 75 percent of surgeons can legally charge more, in practice they are severely constrained by the amounts reimbursed to patients by the national health service. The other 25 percent have voluntarily agreed to keep their fees within the health service guidelines.

The collective has rejected an offer by the government to work with insurance companies to freeze premiums, on the one hand, and to rework the pay-scales over the next three years, on the other.

French health minister Philippe Douste-Blazy spoke at the end of July of "reaching an agreement in the coming days" but his optimism proved unwarranted.

"As things stand, the government proposals are absolutely unacceptable," Cuq told AFP, who says surgeons are more determined than ever to carry through on their threats.

Other surgeons groups and unions have different positions, some calling for the collective to accept the government's offers. Others, such at the surgeons branch of the Alliance union, more supportive of their strike-inclined colleagues.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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