Thousands of doctors and other hospital workers marched through Paris on Thursday to protest against a proposed cost-cutting drive that unions warn will turn health-care facilities into 'business hospitals.'
University students, who have blocked or disrupted classes at universities across the country in recent weeks over education cuts, joined the medical staff, who marched from the Montparnasse train station to government headquarters.
March leader Andrei Grimaldi, head of the diabetes service at the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, said: 'The only aim of the project is to make accounting savings by cutting jobs.'
The draft law proposes more private-sector involvement in the running of hospitals and the closure of some small facilities.
Unions want the right-wing government of President Nicolas Sarkozy to abandon the Bill, predicting that it will lead to the loss of thousands of jobs and turn health-care facilities into 'business hospitals' run by a boss concerned more about costs than care.
Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot, who championed the law, insisted that jobs are not at risk.
'I am the defender of public hospitals,' she said on France 2 television, adding that the hospital law is needed to make the system more efficient by opening it up to private funding.