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Strained French public hospital workers protest cost cuts

PARIS (AP) — Thousands of exasperated nurses, doctors and other public hospital workers marched through Paris on Thursday to demand more staff and resources after years of cost cuts. Before the day was done, the French president said an action plan would be announced next week.

The protest and strike channeled anger that’s long been bubbling among France’s nearly 1 million public hospital workers. Emergency room staff have held a rolling strike since March. Decked in white coats, rheumatologists, anesthesiologists, gynecologists and others from around France braved the November chill for the Paris march, waving banners and sharing stories about growing patient wait times, bed shortages and other problems.

Shrinking investment and lack of reform are taking a toll on France’s often-praised health care system. The government has been working on a support plan for hospitals that protesters fear will be too modest to solve the problem.

President Emmanuel Macron took up the challenge, announcing during a visit to Epernay, in the Marne region, that an action plan will be presented next Wednesday that includes “more means, but not only.”

“The situation is graver than what we had analyzed,” he said. The plan will be announced after next Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, he said. Macron stressed the need to reorganize the system, where problems have been in the making for up to 20 years.

“I hear (the protesters),” he said, adding that “I want us to be able to respond to this alarm.”

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