40,000 German doctors to strike
Some 40,000 German doctors are expected to join a protest on Tuesday of the country's medical policies by closing their practices across the country until the end of the week.
The National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV) has announced that the sector needs political support to face an impending shortage of medical professionals. Every fifth doctor in private practice is near retirement age, the organization says.
"We estimate that by 2012, some 34,000 doctors with their own practices will retire," KBV head Andreas Köhler told press agency DPA in Berlin. "The doctor shortage will ultimately be a challenge for the entire society."
According to a German Health Ministry spokesperson, the first duty of doctors is to supply medical care, and protesting doctors will have to take on financial losses.
As of Tuesday afternoon, no shortages in patient care were reported.
According to media reports, medical sector workers were sceptical that Freie Ärzteschaft, the union that called for the strike, had the resources to effect such a large-scale protest similar to one against major health reforms in 2006.
Neither the KBV or the German Health Ministry have been able to measure the scope of Tuesday's strike.
"Certainly many patients and doctors are still on Easter holiday," said KBV spokesperson Roland Stahl.