Polish police broke up a demonstration Wednesday by dozens of nurses who had blocked a main road in front of the prime minister's offices as part of a pay protest. The nurses had set up camp in the street in the aftermath of a demonstration Tuesday by 4,500 health service staff.
An AFP reporter saw several units of police in riot gear, who tackled the protest Wednesday morning. Although the security forces cleared the street itself, the nurses managed to continue camping on a nearby verge, where they were ringed by police. Local residents turned out to support the protesters and gave them coffee.
"The police pushed us brutally onto the grass," said Zofia Kolanko, a nurse from the southern city of Krakow who had spent the night on the street. "We're doing to carry on camping here until the government representatives come out to talk to us. Up to now they've been ignoring us," she added.
Two nurses were taken to hospital following the police operation, one with an injury to the leg and the other after fainting. On Tuesday, a handful of nurses also occupied part of the offices of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. After a meeting with union representatives Tuesday evening, Kaczynski slammed the protests as "political action of the worst possible style, harmful and shameful for Poland."
Although the nurses are not on strike, Kaczynski's government is already confronting a go-slow by hospital doctors who are also seeking pay hikes. "The government isn't going to solve this problem with police batons," said Juliusz Piotrowski, a doctor from Warsaw's Banacha University Hospital, who had also spent the night outside the premier's offices.
The striking physicians are refusing to provide all but emergency medical services or carry out administrative duties. Poland's state-employed medical workers are notoriously poorly-paid, like their counterparts in many former communist bloc countries.
Polish medical workers say their financial headaches are prompting many in the profession to seek better-paid jobs elsewhere in the European Union, notably Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden.