Monday, July 24, 2006

Private doctors in France ignore pleas not to strike during "deadly heat wave".

Yet another reason for public healthcare.

Monday, July 24, 2006 · Last updated 5:06 p.m. PT

French surgeons, other specialists strike



Tourists go for a ride and cool off on a pedal-boat on a lake in Urrugne, southwestern France, Monday, July 24, 2006. French authorities issued an orange alert following several days of dry heat as temperatures soared to 36C (96.8F) in many parts of the country. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

PARIS -- Some surgeons and specialists in France's private clinics went on strike Monday, ignoring pleas from the health minister and emergency room doctors worried about treating patients during a deadly heat wave.

The strike raised fears that patients from private clinics would overwhelm doctors at public hospitals already busier than usual treating victims of heat-related illnesses. Health Minister Xavier Bertrand asked medical students and retired doctors to back up paramedics and emergency room physicians in some areas.

About 30 people have died from the scorching heat wave over the last 10 days, health authorities said. Temperatures have been in the high 90s across much of France, reaching the low 100s in some southern areas.

The hot weather has revived memories of the deadly summer of 2003, when 15,000 people in France died from the heat.

Patrick Pelloux, president of an association of emergency room physicians, said he was baffled by the surgeons' decision to strike.

"There comes a point when, faced with the risks of a heat wave, there is an honorable side to carrying out one's mission," he told France-2 television.

To maintain bare-bones staffing levels, local officials were authorized to requisition doctors, forcing them back on the job. The Health Ministry said that by Monday evening doctors were ordered back to work in 11 clinics.

The strike, which was continue on Tuesday, was called by the Union of Surgeons of France to demand an increase in the fees they can charge, denounce a rise in insurance premiums and protest that some equipment is no longer reimbursed by the state.

Preliminary figures showed that some 26 percent of surgeons, anesthetists and obstetricians at private clinics had walked off the job, the Health Ministry said, with 111 clinics affected out of a possible 747.

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