French hospital staff confront Macron

Updated May 16, 2020

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“We are desperate. We no longer believe in you,” says one nurse. — AFP/File
“We are desperate. We no longer believe in you,” says one nurse. — AFP/File

PARIS: French nurses and doctors faced off with President Emmanuel Macron at a leading Paris hospital on Friday, demanding better pay and a rethink of a once-renowned public health system that found itself quickly overwhelmed by tens of thousands of virus patients.

“We are desperate. We no longer believe in you,” said a nurse who confronted Macron at the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, saying she’s using a long-expired surgical mask. “We are the shame of Europe.”

That’s not true, the president countered but he could barely get a word in as medics peppered him with grievances. Apparently anticipating such tensions and fearing they could further hurt Macron’s image, the president’s office didn’t allow a single video, photo or radio reporter on the visit.

Macron acknowledged mistakes in reforming the national hospital system, which has faced decades of cost cuts, leaving medical facilities in one of the world’s richest countries short of staff, masks and breathing machines needed to fight the virus crisis.

“For months I was asking for equipment, and we had only three days to fight against the virus,” Martin Hirsch, head of the Paris hospital network, told Macron. France’s infections abruptly multiplied over a short period in March.

As the virus raced across France in March and saturated several hospitals, Macron had to deploy the armed forces to build the country’s first-ever peacetime field hospital and move patients and doctors around in military transport jets and specially fitted high-speed trains.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2020