WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Hundreds of doctors marched Saturday through Poland’s capital of Warsaw to demand more spending on health care to cut waiting times for medical procedures and to stem the flow of underpaid doctors seeking jobs abroad.
Polish media say some people have died as they waited to be admitted to the hospital, and some children’s and obstetrician wards are slated to be closed due to a shortage of doctors and nurses.
This latest demands by Poland’s doctors come after the right-wing ruling party promised new benefits for families with children and for retirees ahead of the European Parliament election. Doctors and nurses have been demanding better pay and more funds for year for Polish health car, which is generally strapped but can also boast world-level expertise in areas like face transplants or caring for sextuplets.
The protesters, some clad in white doctors’ smocks, carried banners that read “We want to treat patients in Poland” and “Stop deaths in waiting lines” as they marched from the Health Ministry to parliament. They left a petition there demanding that 6.8% of Poland’s gross national product be spent on health care.
The conservative government aims to spend 6% by 2024, in a plan that came after massive health care protests in 2017.
Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski said some 98 billion zlotys ($25 billion) will be spent in the sector this year, compared to 75 billion zlotys ($19 billion) in 2015. A large part of the increase is aimed at better working conditions that will keep doctors from leaving, because personnel shortages are the main reason for long waiting times, Szumowski told the state news agency PAP.
The protesters say more efforts are needed sooner.
“Patients are really dying waiting for treatment. We will continue our protests against this,” said Dr. Krzysztof Bukiel, head of a doctors’ union.