MARSEILLE – Nestled in the cinderblock complex of Marseille’s sprawling La Timone hospital stands the intern residency building, home to a community of French student doctors holding an exceptional, open-ended strike to demand a better future.
Protesting interns in white coats and blue hair nets wave signs made from brooms and bedsheets, tooting trumpets and banging drums.
Hanging from lampposts in his scrubs, Xavier Charléty chanted slogans through a megaphone to his colleagues marching through the streets of Marseille as their strike began earlier this month.
France’s vaunted public hospital system is increasingly stretched to its limits after years of cost cuts, and the interns at La Timone — one of the country’s biggest hospitals — say their internships are failing to prepare them as medical professionals. Instead, the doctors-in-training are being used to fill the gaps.
“They call us students, but when they need us, they call us doctors,” says Charléty, a general medicine intern and an active member of the Autonomous Union for Interns of the Hospitals of Marseille.
The movement isn’t directly linked to the retirement strikes convulsing France, but reflects a nationwide worry that public services are falling victim to global market pressures.
After their union meetings, the interns gather together for dinner, usually leftover hospital meals, in their residence's communal kitchen.
Graffiti decorates walls around the brutalist, nine-floor high-rise, as do signs reading “Interns on strike.”