- Junior doctors will go out for 72 hours more than their salary
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- Young doctors struggling with student debt
LONDON, March 10 (Reuters) – Fed up with a government he says doesn’t care, Poh Wang plans to strike with tens of thousands of other young British doctors next week, saying he is overworked , underpaid and burdened by a student. loan he cannot imagine repaying.
The 28-year-old says he and his colleagues were pushed to the brink after sub-inflation pay rises collided with the soaring cost of living to leave him wondering how he will ever be able to pay off his more than 85,000 pounds ($101,000) of student debt.
On top of that, he remains furious with his treatment during the pandemic, when he felt powerless to deal with the onslaught of patients arriving at hospital with symptoms of COVID-19 – saying the public protests support haven’t paid the bills.
He joins junior doctors across England who will go on strike on March 13 for three days, protesting over wages and burnout that risk chasing health service staff as they tackle lists record patient wait times.
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“We’ve reached a boiling point where we’ve had enough,” said Wang, a board member of the British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors and medical students.
“The anger is palpable that we have been used, abused and devalued to such an extent.”
The son of Chinese immigrants who ran a takeaway restaurant in Chester, northern England, Wang became a doctor because he loved helping people. Having attended medical school for six years, he worked for five years, two of them in specialized training as a psychiatrist.
Junior doctors are qualified doctors, often with several years of experience, who work under the direction of senior doctors and represent a large part of the country’s medical community.
He is paid around £40,000 a year for his basic 40 hours a week and works overtime which can total around 48 hours a week. He rents a room in a shared flat in west London, an option that can cost around £1,000 a month.
‘ABOVE AND BEYOND’
At the start of the pandemic, Wang worked as an emergency doctor in south London where he and his colleagues had to make difficult decisions and comfort patients who could not be admitted to intensive care units because they were full. .
“We went above and beyond to do everything we could,” he said.
He said the fact that he is struggling to get by financially now, when food inflation hits 17% in Britain, leaves him and his colleagues increasingly bitter about the last years.
“We hate the sound of clapping, clapping, because it’s empty,” Wang said, referring to Britain’s Clap for Our Carers campaign for health workers at the height of the pandemic.
“If you appreciate us and what we’ve been through and in terms of the sacrifices we’ve made, then pay us right.”
The BMA says the take-home pay of young doctors has been cut by more than a quarter over the past 15 years, when using the retail price index (RPI) inflation gauge.
He says his members voted overwhelmingly in favor of the strike.
The junior doctors’ walkouts will put more pressure on the state-funded National Health Service (NHS), which is experiencing waves of strikes by nurses, paramedics and other staff.
Daniel Zahedi, 27, is another young doctor who plans to strike on Monday. He describes his hospital in Cambridge, in the east of England, as being chronically understaffed and struggling.
“Most of the time we are not enough,” Zahedi said.
As a first-year doctor after his medical degree, Zahedi said he received around £29,000 a year as base salary for a minimum of 40 hours a week. He said he worked around 60 hours this week, which was a bit above average but “not unusual”. His student loan debt is around £100,000.
“It’s not just 100,000 as a student, you have to pay to be a member of your Royal College, you pay to take exams, even to advance in your career,” he said.
Zahedi said that as things stand, he doesn’t see himself staying in the profession long-term, despite his love for the job.
“People are burning out left, right and center – where wages are only eroding year after year, where conditions are getting worse, where patient care is damaged,” he said. .
“They feel undervalued and people are leaving.”
In January, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak highlighted the need to reduce hospital waiting times as one of his government’s five priorities.
Battling strikes in several sectors, including train drivers and teachers, the government said wage moderation in the public sector was needed to rein in double-digit inflation.
($1 = 0.8389 pounds)
Written by Farouq Suleiman; Editing by Kate Holton and Janet Lawrence
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