Russians marched through central Moscow yesterday protesting against reforms to the healthcare system and to demand better wages and working conditions for doctors, Reuters reported.
According to Russian media over 7,000 doctors might lose their job as part of the reform, with around 28 hospitals and clinics set to close in Moscow alone over the next few months. According to officials, the re-organisation was aimed at increasing efficiency.
Many of the protesters were doctors and healthworkers. They marched through parts of the city carrying banners, and shouting slogans, holding banners like: "Doctors and patients, unite!"
The protest, a rare event had been sanctioned by Russian authorities. According to Moscow police who spoke to Russian news agencies around 1,500 protesters had attended the march, while a reuters cameraman estimated twice as many having joined demonstrations.
Similar protests were held in St Petersburg, Vladivostok and other Russian cities over the weekend, Russian news agencies reported.
One banner carried by the protesters many of whom wore white hospital coats over their over their winter jackets read "Save money on war, not on doctors," AFP and AP reports said.
State budgets have been hit by western sanctions over Russian actions in Ukraine and low oil prices. The rouble has also been devalued.
According to Russian officials, the cuts and closures were a much-needed step to modernise Soviet-era health care.