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Health workers take to the streets

Healthcare professionals want better pay and work conditions Keystone

Health care workers in Switzerland have been holding protests across the country to demand better work conditions and higher salaries.

This content was published on November 14, 2001 - 17:58

The protests organised by trade unions include sit-ins lasting 15 minutes, at hospitals and in private homes, a demonstration at the Federal Parliament in the capital, Bern, and protests in other cities and towns.

The protesters hope to pressure politicians and employers into improving working conditions in the health care sector. Their demands include higher salaries, more jobs and better pay for shift work, including night shifts.

At St Gallen's cantonal hospital for example, hundreds of employees walked off the job for a " protest break" at 11 am. Representatives of the nursing staff and other workers called on politicians to recognise the work carried out and for increased salaries.

In Bern, 3,000 people demonstrated late in the afternoon, expressing their frustrations. "I'm tired of not being able to do my work as I was taught," said Fransisca, a nurse protesting in the capital, "I don't have enough time for the patients and I'm not paid enough."

For Marc, a physiotherapist, the workload has increased in recent years. "We need more personnel," he told swissinfo. "We have more different work to do, which is interesting, but also very stressful."

For Oliver, a doctor, work conditions are the main problem facing his profession. "We don't want more money, but we want to work less so we can have a better life," he said.

Demanding change

The unions say the latest protests highlight the lack of appreciation for the work done in the health care sector and the difficulties nurses and doctors face in their jobs.

Financial cuts in the health care sector led to a drop in work quality, which affects patients and causes more stress for personnel, the unions say.

The protests are the latest in a series of actions by employees in the health care sector in several regions across the country over the past few months.

Switzerland's 26 cantons are largely autonomous in dealing with health issues, but there have also been calls at the federal level to improve the legal status of health care personnel.

swissinfo with agencies

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