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AP PHOTOS: In despair, French hospital interns go on strike

In this photo taken on Dec.17, 2019, Smranda Deaconu passes out flags at a hospital workers march in Marseille, southern France. In a hospital in Mars...
In this photo taken on Dec.15, 2019 Vincent Achour, a psychiatry intern on strike sits by a window at the intern residency at Marseille's La Timone ho...
In this photo taken on Dec.16, 2019, a medical intern wears a sticker on his work clothes that reads "interns on strike" in the Hospital Nord in Marse...
In this Dec.13 2019 photo, The medical intern residency is pictured at sunset. Interns partake in a communal lifestyle in the nine floor building loca...
This photo taken on Dec 15, 2019  shows La Timone hospital, pictured from the communal kitchen in the medical interns residency building, in Marseille...
This photo taken on Dec.9, 2019 shows an empty wheelchair at the entrance to La Timone hospital in Marseille, southern France. In a hospital in Marsei...
In this photo taken on Dec.9, 2019 Vincent Achour, a psychiatry intern and treasurer of the Autonomous Union for Interns of the Hospitals of Marseille...
In this photo taken on Dec.19, 2019 a sign reads "out of service, thank you" on a gurney in Marseille's Hospital de la Conception, southern France. In...
In this photo taken on Dec.16, 2019 members of the Autonomous Union for Interns of the Hospitals of Marseille, southern France, prepare materials in t...
In this photo taken on Dec. 16, 2019 a man with a walking stick walks through the lobby of Marseille's La Timone hospital, southern France. In a hospi...
In this photo taken on Dec.15, 2019 a frying pan hangs in a communal kitchen in the intern residency at Marseille's La Timone hospital, southern Franc...
In this photo taken Tuesday Dec.17, 2019 Hospital workers march in Marseille, southern France. In a hospital in Marseille, student doctors are holding...
This photo taken on Dec.16, 2019 shows Nathan Demerle, a psychiatry intern on strike posing for a portrait in front of Marseille's La Timone hospital,...
In this photo taken on Dec.15, 2019 Sylain Dejean, a psychiatry Intern on strike, poses for a portrait at the intern residency in Marseille's La Timon...
In this photo taken Dec.13, 2019, members of the Autonomous Union for Interns of the Hospitals of Marseille gather for a general assembly at the inter...
In this photo taken on Dec. 15, 2019, Vincent Achour, a psychiatry intern on strike climbs the concrete stairs leading the the intern residency at Mar...
In this photo taken on Dec.15, 2019, a hospital intern wears a work uniform that reads "metro, work, Benzedrine" in the lobby of La Timone hospital du...
In this photo taken on Dec.15, 2019 Vincent Achour, a hospital intern in psychiatry and his sister Pauline sing together to a ukelele in the intern re...
In this photo taken on Dec.17, 2019 medical workers march during a demonstration in Marseille, southern France. In a hospital in Marseille, student do...

In this photo taken on Dec.17, 2019, Smranda Deaconu passes out flags at a hospital workers march in Marseille, southern France. In a hospital in Mars...

In this photo taken on Dec.15, 2019 Vincent Achour, a psychiatry intern on strike sits by a window at the intern residency at Marseille's La Timone ho...

In this photo taken on Dec.16, 2019, a medical intern wears a sticker on his work clothes that reads "interns on strike" in the Hospital Nord in Marse...

In this Dec.13 2019 photo, The medical intern residency is pictured at sunset. Interns partake in a communal lifestyle in the nine floor building loca...

This photo taken on Dec 15, 2019 shows La Timone hospital, pictured from the communal kitchen in the medical interns residency building, in Marseille...

This photo taken on Dec.9, 2019 shows an empty wheelchair at the entrance to La Timone hospital in Marseille, southern France. In a hospital in Marsei...

In this photo taken on Dec.9, 2019 Vincent Achour, a psychiatry intern and treasurer of the Autonomous Union for Interns of the Hospitals of Marseille...

In this photo taken on Dec.19, 2019 a sign reads "out of service, thank you" on a gurney in Marseille's Hospital de la Conception, southern France. In...

In this photo taken on Dec.16, 2019 members of the Autonomous Union for Interns of the Hospitals of Marseille, southern France, prepare materials in t...

In this photo taken on Dec. 16, 2019 a man with a walking stick walks through the lobby of Marseille's La Timone hospital, southern France. In a hospi...

In this photo taken on Dec.15, 2019 a frying pan hangs in a communal kitchen in the intern residency at Marseille's La Timone hospital, southern Franc...

In this photo taken Tuesday Dec.17, 2019 Hospital workers march in Marseille, southern France. In a hospital in Marseille, student doctors are holding...

This photo taken on Dec.16, 2019 shows Nathan Demerle, a psychiatry intern on strike posing for a portrait in front of Marseille's La Timone hospital,...

In this photo taken on Dec.15, 2019 Sylain Dejean, a psychiatry Intern on strike, poses for a portrait at the intern residency in Marseille's La Timon...

In this photo taken Dec.13, 2019, members of the Autonomous Union for Interns of the Hospitals of Marseille gather for a general assembly at the inter...

In this photo taken on Dec. 15, 2019, Vincent Achour, a psychiatry intern on strike climbs the concrete stairs leading the the intern residency at Mar...

In this photo taken on Dec.15, 2019, a hospital intern wears a work uniform that reads "metro, work, Benzedrine" in the lobby of La Timone hospital du...

In this photo taken on Dec.15, 2019 Vincent Achour, a hospital intern in psychiatry and his sister Pauline sing together to a ukelele in the intern re...

In this photo taken on Dec.17, 2019 medical workers march during a demonstration in Marseille, southern France. In a hospital in Marseille, student do...

MARSEILLE, France (AP) — Nestled in the cinderblock complex of Marseille’s sprawling La Timone hospital stands the intern residency building, home to a community of French student doctors holding an exceptional, open-ended strike to demand a better future.

Protesting interns in white coats and blue hair nets wave signs made from brooms and bedsheets, tooting trumpets and banging drums.

Hanging from lampposts in his scrubs, Xavier Charléty chanted slogans through a megaphone to his colleagues marching through the streets of Marseille as their strike began earlier this month.

France’s vaunted public hospital system is increasingly stretched to its limits after years of cost cuts, and the interns at La Timone — one of the country’s biggest hospitals — say their internships are failing to prepare them as medical professionals. Instead, the doctors-in-training are being used to fill the gaps.

“They call us students, but when they need us, they call us doctors,” says Charléty, a general medicine intern and an active member of the Autonomous Union for Interns of the Hospitals of Marseille.

The movement isn’t directly linked to the retirement strikes convulsing France, but reflects a nationwide worry that public services are falling victim to global market pressures.

After their union meetings, the interns gather together for dinner, usually leftover hospital meals, in their residence's communal kitchen.

Graffiti decorates walls around the brutalist, nine-floor high-rise, as do signs reading “Interns on strike.”

“It is a kind of shelter, when people around you start to talk about the strike and how things can change, it gives you strength,” says Vincent Achour, a psychiatry intern.

The interns proudly wear their uniforms and name tags even while on strike, demonstrating their attachment to the profession. They’re torn between guilt at leaving their posts – and their patients – and determination to call attention to the precarious conditions at La Timone.

Strike-related disruptions have sent hospital management scrambling to assign senior doctors to fulfil the roles of their absent apprentices. French hospitals are required by law to provide a minimum level of service even during strikes.

Pediatrics intern Smranda Deaconu says she will return to work the week of Christmas because she can't bear to see the strain on her colleagues brought about by her absence.

As late-stage medical students specializing in their respective departments, the interns are still learning but often work the same hours and conduct the same procedures as their fully qualified superiors.

The strike is unusual because in the past, interns would formally declare themselves on strike yet still go to work, not receiving pay for the hours they complete. Charlety called this form of protest “meaningless.”

His union is determined to keep up the pressure through the holidays. The health minister is meeting hospital employee representatives next month, in hopes of finding solutions for their mountain of grievances.

—-

Angela Charlton contributed to this report from Paris.


Updated : 2021-03-05 18:37 GMT+08:00