General practitioners in France continue on strike as the country grapples with a surge in bronchiolitis in children, the flu, and COVID-19, attracting criticism from the country health minister on Wednesday.
Doctors closed their practices on Monday and plan to stay on strike until Jan. 2 to protest for an increase in fees and an improvement in their working conditions.
The strike was initiated by the "Doctors for Tomorrow" collective, which has also called for nationwide demonstrations on Jan. 5.
The collective is demanding a doubling of basic rates for consultations from the current €25 ($26.60) to €50, complaining that the profession has lost its appeal among young physicians as it no longer provides sufficient income while also requiring many administrative tasks.
Still the walkout has triggered criticism amid the three-pronged disease outbreak.
"The strike by general practitioners is not appropriate at a time of extreme difficulty for the health system," Health Minister Francois Braun said during a visit to a hospital in Annecy in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region.
"I am not questioning the right of doctors to strike, but it is not the right time," he continued.
Braun urged health professionals who have called the strike to make use of "institutions that allow to discuss, and to address the problems."
"My door has always been open, it will remain open to solve the problems, but you don't go on strike before you start discussing," added the health minister.