Doctors in second week of strikes

Hospitals are in for a second week of upheaval as doctors, continuing a protest over a government about-turn on a labor contract agreement, begin a three-day walkout today. Meanwhile, in a bid to avert a spiraling crisis in the health sector, Health Minister Dimitris Avramapoulos presented a «new, improved» version of the labor contract he had agreed upon with unionists, before tweaking it to their detriment. The union of hospital doctors in Athens and Piraeus has called a three-day strike, starting today, and encouraged doctors to join a rally at 12.30 p.m. on Thursday outside Parliament, where MPs are to discuss proposed reforms. Doctors at state hospitals across the rest of the country are to join the action from tomorrow when they launch a 48-hour strike. In a new development, National First Aid Center (EKAB) doctors, who work on ambulances, have decided to join the action, complaining that chronic understaffing obliges them to work excessive hours. They have said that they will work no more than 48 hours per week as of next week, in accordance with the legal minimum. Last week doctors at state hospitals also worked the minimum required shifts in a bid to draw government attention to the demands. As a result, many hospitals in Athens, Piraeus, Thessaloniki and other major cities struggled to operate normally. An embargo imposed on hospitals by medical suppliers, who are seeking millions of euros in unpaid debts, exacerbated the problems last week. In a bid to appease doctors, Avramopoulos yesterday presented an «improved» offer foreseeing salary raises ranging between 185 euros for specialists and 370 euros for directors. Unionists yesterday did not give any official response to the proposed raises, which are not as high as they are demanding, but pressed union members to join strike action.

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