Protesting doctors are demanding better public healthcare funding and pay raises, as well as a meeting with the prime minister.
“We consider mediations [with Radziwiłł] to be over, we didn't reach a deal … [mediation] has been exhausted and we expect to talk with the prime minister,” Łukasz Jankowski of the OZZL medical practitioners' union said.
Radziwiłł said he was open to further mediation and that Szydło would talk to protesters when they call off their hunger strike. But doctors have said they will not stop.
Daniel Łuszczewski, a representative of the doctors on strike, said the protest “is not just about pay, but about a way to stop doctors from leaving the country”.
Poland joined the European Union in 2004, paving the way to Poles being able to move freely and seek work across the bloc. Many doctors and other professionals have sought better-paid work abroad.
Łuszczewski said there were too few doctors in Poland, working hundreds of hours each month. “We are over tired and we are not able to ensure patients get proper care”.
According to Łuszczewski, resident doctors earn from PLN 2,200 (EUR 512) to PLN 2,500 after tax each month.
"The hunger strike continues. We have wanted to meet the prime minister... None of our previous efforts were considered good enough for a meeting so we are conducting a hunger strike. We are afraid that if we call off the protest, we will be disappointed, as we have been the last two years,” Łuszczewski said.
Raise is 'absolutely impossible'
Radziwiłł said that the resident doctors are demanding at least PLN 9,200 gross monthly, double the national average wage, which “is absolutely impossible to achieve at this time”.
He added that the doctors claimed to be willing to “compromise”, suggesting an immediate minimum wage hike to PLN 6,400 per month, and to PLN 8,100 for doctors specialising in high-demand fields of medicine.
Radziwiłł instead offered raises of PLN 1,000 to 1,500 a month each year until 2020, putting the minimum wage for resident doctors at PLN 5,100 in three years' time. He admitted that the amount was “not staggering,” adding that “its hard to imagine … increased healthcare spending being entirely earmarked for remuneration, especially for remuneration of resident doctors”.
Amid the resident doctors' protest, members of the public have raised concerns that patients are being neglected.
But Łuszczewski said that doctors involved in the hunger strike are not working and have taken holiday leave.
Not just pay
The striking doctors, who have occupied the foyer of a major paediatric hospital in Warsaw, said they also want healthcare funding increased to 6.8 percent of GDP by 2020 and to 9 percent by 2027, red-tape and queues to be cut, more medical staff, and better conditions.