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Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Monday that health workers would soon benefit from large salary increases as part of an overhaul of the French hospital system in response to the coronavirus crisis.
“I can say without any ambiguity, the increase will be significant”, Philippe said during the launch of consultations with doctors and nurses which are expected to end in July.
In recent weeks, many have insisted that the nightly applause from caregivers treating COVID-19 patients would start ringing hollow if the government did not back public recognition of their work with additional resources.
The starting salary for a nurse, for example, is 1,500 euros ($ 1,600), one of the lowest levels in the group of developed economies in the OECD.
Philippe promised “massive investments” as well as “radical changes” which could include new rules on working hours and schedules to ensure that health workers remain motivated despite the constraints of their work.
“The key word here is pragmatism. I cannot say now what these discussions will lead to, but I said that we had to remove all constraints, whatever they are”, he said. he declares.
The government had already pledged in November an additional 1.5 billion euros for hospitals over the next three years, including bonuses for thousands of nurses, in the face of growing anger at the heavy workload and lack of of staff.
The state also pledged to absorb 10 billion euros of hospital debt, giving the system the possibility of contracting new loans for investments.
“We must do more,” Philippe admitted on Monday, without providing a figure on potential expenses.
“I think this crisis forces us not to change our goals, but to step up our pace,” he said.
The coronavirus epidemic has killed more than 28,000 people in France, although the number of daily deaths has fallen sharply since the peak of the epidemic.
The government is expected to announce next week a further easing of the lockdown imposed in mid-March, which currently prevents people from traveling more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from their homes.
Restaurants, bars and cinemas also remain closed, although they may be allowed to reopen with strict social distancing restrictions in areas where the number of COVID-19 cases has remained limited.