“We are simply asking that the law be respected”

This Sunday in April, Delphine (his first name has been changed), an intern in digestive surgery in a town in northwestern France, had been on call for twenty-four hours. She then continued on Monday. At 5 pm, exhausted, she had taken the car to go home. When she arrived, she realized that two bikers were following her. It was the police. “Do you know why you are being arrested?” – No. – You crossed a white line on the road. “ For all answer, Delphine burst into tears. “We must sleep, madam”, reacted the police. “Take back your papers and go to bed!” “” I was at the end of the line “, remembers Delphine.

Working time is at the heart of the demands of the National Intersyndicale des Interns en Médecine (ISNI), which calls for an indefinite strike from Friday June 18 and a day of demonstration on Saturday, with a slogan: “Protect your internal”. These young doctors, who are just over 30,000 in France to do their internship for at least three years in different hospital departments after a competitive examination that they take at the end of the sixth year of studies, are faced with a structural work overload.

The Council of State seized

Despite a 2015 decree setting their weekly working limit at 48 hours, interns work an average of 58.4 hours per week, according to an ISNI survey carried out in 2020. While some specialties are relatively spared, others , like surgery, exceed seventy hours per week. “We are not claiming any new rights, we are simply asking that the law be respected”, insists Gaëtan Casanova, president of ISNI. Interns demand an hourly count for their work.

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In November 2020, the subject was already on the table. The ISNI then seized the Council of State to request the repeal of the provisions of the public health code relating to the working time of interns. The text provides that it is calculated in half-days, and not in hours. “However, a half-day is neither defined nor limited by the text”, denounces Gaëtan Casanova. “Due to the lack of precise counting, we are unable to give an estimate of working time”, adds Alexandre Brudon, vice-president of the Union of residents of hospitals in Paris (SIHP).

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