Polish Junior Doctors Call Off Hunger Strike

Today Polish junior doctors announced the end of their hunger strike.The strike lasted for 28 days and involved doctors from eight cities. The doctors’ protest however continues and its postulates — increasing spending on health care to 6.8% of GDP, falling treatment waiting lists and rising wages across the whole of public healthcare in Poland — remain unchanged. From today, the doctors moved on to other forms of strike, namely refusing to sign a so-called “opt-out clause.”

The opt-out clause is a special clause in a contract of employment in which doctors waive their right to EU working time restrictions. In practice, it allows them to work much longer than the legal limit of 48 hours a week. The second aspect of the protest will be resignations from additional posts. Most of the young doctors, in addition to their regular residency, work as emergency and night medical personnel.Young doctors estimate that the effects of opt-out and resignation from additional posts will accumulate in January and February and will mean the lack of staff on duty calls.

Jarosław Bylinski from the Junior Doctors Alliance said during a press conference:

We do not stop fighting for ideas, for our flagship postulates — especially to increase spending on healthcare. We only change the form of protest — we will stop working this excessive number of hours contrary to the Labour Code. We will stop patching the holes in the system and treating patients as numbers.

So far Poland’s right-wing government is ignoring the strike as much as it can, and instead of dealing with the issues raised by doctors, engages in a smear campaign of the leaders of the strike via state-controlled media.  However, recent opinion polls say that 63% of population of Poland supports the strike.