German doctors go on strike, should American physicians follow?

Doctors are angry.

Some are unhappy with health reform, and others worry that reform didn’t go far enough.

Bob Doherty, in his ACP Advocate Blog, wrote how many physicians are unhappy with the American Medical Association for instance, noting, “there is no doubt that some doctors are angry, very angry, at the AMA. A blog search comes up with dozens of posts about how the AMA has betrayed doctors. It is almost as if the AMA has become the devil incarnate in some doctors’ minds.”

But are doctors willing to as far as their physician counterparts in Germany?

Many countries in Europe, which have systems that health reformers Stateside want to emulate, are also dealing with rising health costs. This consequently is putting pressure on physician salaries and hospital payments. Now, doctors in Germany have gone on strike:

Some 15,000 doctors across Germany are staging a walkout to press for higher pay and better working conditions, a union said on Monday.

Doctors at about 200 public clinics in most German states were on strike and 4,000 gathered for a protest in Munich, the Marburger Bund union said in a statement.

The walkout is scheduled to last all week, but the union stressed it could continue indefinitely if the towns and cities running the clinics don’t make a better offer.

Although I understand the frustration and anger among physicians, I wonder if going on strike, and making life difficult for patients, is the right strategy. Primary care physician Richard Baron spoke to the New York Times, saying, “People do not make the best doctors or policy people or advocates from a position of anger.”

I agree.

Physicians need to ally themselves with patients in order exact change. The AARP, for instance, has been an influential lobby helping doctors fight against the Medicare rate cuts.  Without them, some of those cuts might have gone through.

By themselves, doctors draw little sympathy from the public and have insignificant influence in Congress.

Going on strike will only antagonize patients and isolate physicians. And that, ironically, may only decrease the bargaining power of doctors.