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Hungarian health care workers demand wage increase

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Around thousands health care workers assembled today in Budapest, the capital of Hungary, demanding higher wages.

They protested for better working conditions in the health system in the country.

The protest, including proponents from the biggest trade unions in the country, expressed their dissatisfaction with the current situation. COVID-19 crisis only made the status quo worse, said the crowd.

The health workers have been demanding and raising their voices for a long time. However, their demands and appeals went unnoted by the government.

Kata Gornicsak, a chief nurse at a hospital in Budapest for around 26 years, stated “The past period has been very difficult for us. The COVID pandemic has turned our lives upside down.

“The reason we are here is not because of hope but desperation. We want respect, which we are not getting at all,” the expert nurse added.

The government overlooked nurses and orderlies when they put forward an amendment that introduced higher wages for doctors only, said the Hungarian Chamber of Health Care Professionals.

It is worth noting that the Hungarian Chamber of Health Care Professionals sparked the demonstration.

“The doctors earn very well,” said Marika Bognar, a nurse who came from Bacs-Kiskun to southern Hungary to join the demonstration, “while the nurses who are feeding and dressing the patients while working double shifts, including nights, aren’t paid well at all,”

In an attempt to prevent an influx of overwhelmed medical staff, the government issued a decree in November, abolishing the health care staff their rights to resign.

The decree came as part of the country’s pandemic state of emergency.

The Hungarian health system lived unfavorable times fighting COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis struck the country in fall and winter, recording the highest death rates worldwide.

Although around 95% of public health care professionals signed the new wages and benefits agreement, around five thousands rejected to sign new contracts.

In a survey conducted by the Independent Health Care Union, almost half of the health care staff in the country intended to leave the sector or retire once they legally can.

Gornicsak expressed her anxiety about the situation. As some staff members enjoyed increased benefits, it was not enough to make up for the deteriorating situation caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

“Most of us received 10 extra vacation days, which we are very happy with, but we probably won’t be able to use them because we constantly have to work,” said Gornicsak.

Gergely Karacsony, Budapest’s liberal mayor, stressed the importance of increasing funding and that should be planned by the next administration.

“Putting (the country) back on its feet must be one of the most important tasks of the next government,” said Karacsony, “The government should not be in a state of war with health care workers, but should jointly develop a system of wages and conditions which can keep health care professionals and doctors in the system.”

Karacsony, who is running against Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, in coming elections, attended the protest in the capital.

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