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French medics protest hospital crisis, deepened by COVID

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PARIS — Health workers are protesting Tuesday around France to demand more hiring and better salaries in public hospitals, after years of cost cuts that left medics submerged when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and are now forcing emergency rooms to cut services.

Nine unions and collectives organized a day of protest, including a demonstration outside the Health Ministry in Paris and in dozens of other towns and cities, to call the government’s attention to growing concerns about staff shortages.

President Emmanuel Macron has promised a rethink of the public hospital system and commissioned an urgent review by July 1.

His government offered slight salary boosts to some hospital workers last year and authorized new equipment, but medics say the problems are deeper. Years of gradual cost cuts left France’s once-renowned public health care system understaffed and ill-prepared when the pandemic hit. Morale was already low among many medics, and some have quit the profession. Others are still reeling from the challenges of treating successive waves of COVID-19 patients.

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An emergency medics’ group, Samu-Urgences de France, calculated last month that more than 100 emergency facilities have either already limited services are plan to because of staff shortages.

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