Some hospitals have been forced to put off non-urgent procedures or close night emergency service. Children’s hospitals in the city of Bialystok and the town of Gizycko were among the affected health centers.
Poland’s Health Ministry said Wednesday that some 3,500 of nearly 88,000 hospital physicians had refused to sign up to contracts which allow them to work more than 48 hours a week.
The protesters put the number at about 5,000 doctors. They are calling for talks with Health Minister Konstanty Radziwill to demand a speedy, substantial increase to funding for Poland's chronically strapped, understaffed and poorly organized health care.
The opposition is urging Radziwill's dismissal in a cabinet reshuffle expected this month.
Radziwill described the protest as "mutiny" aimed at disrupting hospitals, saying the situation was "under control" as hospital managers could reorganize work schedules.
Patients in the capital Warsaw reported no problems.
In late 2017, young underpaid physicians held protests and hunger strikes to demand higher pay and increased funding for the European country's health care system. The protests were dissolved after Radziwill announced legislation to increase health care expenditure from the current 4 percent of the annual economic growth to more than 6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2025. Wage increases took effect on January 1.