by Monitor
Every so often one sees a news story that is so bizarre it can hardly be believed. Try this one, from The Times, for size. Some 300 French surgeons and doctors have been holding a conference at Pontin's holiday camp at Camber Sands, near Rye in Sussex. They were members of the organisation known as Surgeons of France which represents some 16'000 surgeons who work in private practice, earning between 200'000 and 300'000 euros a year. Among them were obstetricians, cardiac specialists and anaesthetists. They met at Pontin's to discuss the formation of a new trade union to push for radical reform of the health services in France and, of course, to demand higher fees. But why at the Pontin's 1960s holiday camp? Well, since they have absented themselves from their duties to attend the conference they are considered to be on strike and under French law could be put under pressure by the police to return to work if they were holding their meeting in France. But with Camber Sands conveniently close to the Ashford Eurostar terminal they decided that they could easily escape to Britain without fear of reprisals back home. Another consideration for the French surgeons is apparently their respect for the British National Health Service. A spokesman said, “We admire the changes that have been made to the British health system, and we can see why the improvements helped Tony Blair's reelection. While your NHS has been getting better, ours has been going in the opposite direction.” But a French television journalist covering the Pontin's gathering admitted to some perplexity since he had recently reported the story of an British patient from Kent who had an operation at Dunkirk because the NHS couldn't provide it! If the French specialists had held their meeting a week or so earlier they might have found themselves on TV in the middle of the British general election.