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20.11.2019 Europe

France to take on hospital debt in bid to quell protest movement

- Johanna Geron/Reuters
NOV 20, 2019 EUROPE

France will absorb 10 billion euros of public hospital debt as part of emergency measures aimed at ending months of protests by doctors and nurses. The government has also promised additional funding for hospitals and bonuses for nurses.

"The hospital crisis is nothing new. But it has gone through one of its acutest phases in recent months," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in a televised address on Tuesday. "Healthcare workers can't go on like this any longer."

The 10 billion euros to be taken over by the state represents nearly one third of the total debt burdening the public hospitals' balance sheets.

Health minister Agnes Buzyn announced an 800 euro bonus for 40,000 nurses and staffers living in the Paris region and earning less than 1,900 euros per month.

Hospitals will also receive an additional 1.5 billion euros over three years, with 300 million as of 2020.

The government had already launched a 750 million euro plan to revamp the country's emergency medical services by 2022. Protests continued.

The government hopes these new measures will calm unrest at a time public anger is mounting over reform of the pension system.

Hospital protests began in March, with workers saying public health spending cuts have stretched the healthcare system to breaking point, with patients left for hours on trolleys in emergency rooms, and doctors exhausted by stressful conditions.

The government has some room for manoeuvre in the 2020 budget, which an expected public deficit of 2.2 per cent of economic output, lower than the EU-imposed limit of three per cent.