Like many east European countries, Hungary is grappling with a shortage of doctors and medical workers as local salaries pale in comparison to western European levels.
Nurses wearing white T-shirts and carrying white balloons gathered in a central Budapest square. Hundreds of them arrived from outside the capital and travelled hours to attend the rally.
According to an online survey conducted by the Chamber of Hungarian Healthcare Professionals last month, more than 1,000 nurses are contemplating leaving Hungary.
"We are the mid-level professionals who are always forgotten when salaries are raised," said Ibolya Pinter Gal, who has been a nurse for more than three decades.
She has been caring for COVID-19 patients in an intensive care unit since March 2020. She was promised extra pay for the high-risk work, but has still not received it.
The most important demand of the nurses is a wage hike that is proportional to the recent hike in doctors’ salaries.
Parliament passed a healthcare bill last October that brought a substantial wage hike for doctors. The increase did not apply to nurses whose salaries have been raised only gradually since 2019.