“We are for dialogue but we will be able to remain firm and we will take our responsibilities”. On October 26, with L’Express, Alain Le Meur, spokesperson for the Alliance for Medical Biology (ABM) did not rule out a strike in order to protest against the savings demanded by the government after the two years of Covid-19 epidemic. It’s done: the biologists called Monday evening November 7th for a “renewable strike of all medical biology laboratories” from Monday November 14th. They hope to be followed by the large private networks, members like them of the ABM (Biogroup, Cerba, Eurofins, Inovie, Synlab).

On October 27, the laboratories had already suspended the transmission of the results of their RT-PCR screening tests (Covid tests) to the national SI-DEP file, making it more difficult to monitor the evolution of the epidemic. “We are pursuing our public health mission, without penalizing patients and free of charge, but without ensuring our major role in monitoring the epidemic”, specified the ABM at the time. This rebellion had aroused the ire of the government, which denounced an “inadmissible” boycott. Biologists resumed transmission of test results on November 2, to show a “sign of openness”, according to the president of the ABM, which brings together unions and major laboratory groups.

The ABM has been engaged for more than a month in a standoff with the government, which wants to impose lower prices on them via the Social Security budget. Biologists denounce a “blind stroke of the plane on current biology expenses which is imposed on the profession” in the Social Security budget and criticize “the austerity madness” of Health Insurance. “It would be unthinkable to pillory (…) an exemplary profession. We were the good students, we were asked to carry out the tests”, underlined with L’Express Alain Le Meur on October 26. Asked about the savings provided for in the Social Security draft budget by Le Parisien on November 2, Thomas Fatôme, the director general of Cnam (Health Insurance) had insisted on “the profitability of the pre-Covid sector and the significant improvement in the financial situation of the laboratories since then”. “It’s not up to public money to maintain a speculative bubble around laboratories,” he said.

The last chance meeting, Monday, November 7, came to an end. Received at the end of the day at the headquarters of Health Insurance, the representatives of liberal biologists “ran into a wall”, affirm their four unions in a statement sent to AFP. They say they had a bad surprise: came to negotiate a puncture limited to 250 million euros, as provided for in the Social Security budget, but “in the year 2023 alone”, they explain that they have on the contrary received “a new planer proposal even saltier than that initially envisaged”: 280 million next year, then 322 million per year until 2026.

“This policy of blind planing will cause the closure of local laboratories, particularly in rural areas and medical deserts”, they warn. On October 26, Alain Le Meur warned of the consequences for analysis laboratories: “We will not be able to survive such significant drops.”

According to a biologist contacted by Le Parisien after Monday’s meeting, the strike should affect “all city laboratories on November 14, 15 and 16, at least”. He specifies that “hospital samples, dialysis, urgent home samples (including chemotherapy) and medically assisted procreation assessments will be the only acts treated on those days.”

The unions warn ministers François Braun (Health) and Gabriel Attal (Public Accounts) against “the risk of a general mobilization of health liberals”. However, the executive is reluctant to change its mind. The government spokesman, Olivier Véran, indeed declared on Sunday November 6 on France 3 that there would be “no turning back” on the savings included in the Social Security budget and that there there was “no reason to revise this position”.