Thousands of health care workers and their supporters have gathered in the Hungarian capital Budapest to demand pay increases and better conditions for those working in the country’s ailing public health system.
The crowd, which included supporters of many of Hungary’s biggest trade unions, said the COVID-19 pandemic had only worsened the already precarious condition of health care workers, while their demand for wage increases and reduced working hours The demands were ignored by the government.
“The last phase has been very difficult for us. The COVID pandemic has turned our lives upside down,” said Kata Gorniek, who has worked as a head nurse for 26 years at a hospital in Budapest. “The reason we are here is not because of hope but out of desperation. We want respect, which we are not getting at all.”
The Hungarian Chamber of Health Care Professionals, which called for the demonstration, said the government had not consulted them before making changes to the health care system in March, which increased wages for doctors, but many working in hospitals. not for other people, such as nurses and orders
Marika Bognar, a nurse traveling for the demonstration from Baix-Kiscun County, said, “Doctors make a lot of money, while the nurses who feed and dress patients while working double shifts, including nights, have absolutely Also not paid well.” in southern Hungary.
Hungary’s health care system has struggled to cope with the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic, which ravaged the country in the fall and winter, giving it one of the highest per capita death rates in the world.
A government decree, issued in November as part of Hungary’s pandemic situation, takes away the rights of health care professionals to resign in an effort to stop the outflow of doctors and nurses.
While about 95% of those working in Hungary’s public health care sector signed the new agreement on wages and benefits, 5,000 refused to sign the new essential contracts.
A survey released in June by the Independent Health Care Union found that nearly half of health care professionals in Hungary plan to either leave the sector or retire as soon as legal terms allow.
Budapest nurse Gorniek said some workers had received increased benefits, but they were not enough to meet poor wages and the intense demands arising from the pandemic.
“Most of us got 10 extra vacation days, which we’re very happy with, but we probably won’t be able to use them because we have to work constantly,” she said.
Karacsoni told The Associated Press that Hungary’s health care system is in need of more funding, and that “getting[it]back on its feet should be one of the most important tasks of the next government.”
“The government should not be at war with health care workers, but should jointly develop a system of wages and conditions that can keep health care professionals and doctors in the system,” Karaxoni said.