Polish doctors protest against government

October 25, 2017 10:30 am

Health officials and patients’ representatives meet resident doctors holding a hunger strike in Kraków, southern , on October 25, 2017. (Photo by PAP)

Polish doctors on Wednesday doubled down on their call for a health budget increase by striking in the southern city of Krakow after finding the government’s promises insufficient.
Trainee medical staff and specialists took the day off from work under the banner of “a day without doctors”, with some joining a hunger strike at a local hospital, to show their solidarity with colleagues around the country who have been protesting this month.
Health Minister Konstanty Radziwill condemned the move, telling public broadcaster TVP1 that “one should not toy with the health and life of patients.”
The striking doctors had tried to minimize the inconvenience to patients by informing them of their absence and rescheduling appointments for the near future.
The protest began on October 2 when around 20 young Warsaw doctors launched a hunger strike, which was later repeated in other big cities. On October 14, some 1,000 medical professionals rallied in the capital.
The doctors have been calling on the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party government to increase healthcare spending to 6.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) within the next three years.
The health budget for this year is 4.7 percent of GDP.
The doctors have stressed that they are not just looking for higher salaries but also to see an increase in public healthcare spending across the board.
They have the public’s support, according to an opinion survey by the Ibris Institute for the Rzeczpospolita daily, released Wednesday, which said 63 percent of respondents backed the doctors’ initiative.
The survey was carried out last week, before the government adopted a draft bill on October 24 that would see a gradual increase of the health budget to six percent of GDP in 2025.
The protesting doctors have said they would be willing to accept the six percent level but only if it was reached earlier.
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