GPs are being urged to go on an ‘indefinite’ strike from October 13 in protest over the level of patient consultation fees in France.
All self-employed doctors represented by unions are being called to join and to continue their action for several days.
October 13 is due to be a day of mass strike action across France and Europe in both the public and the private sectors.
The Confédération des syndicats médicaux français (CSMF) union said it is “calling on all self-employed doctors, GPs and specialists to join this unlimited action en masse and to cancel their medical activities [during the time frame]” in a press release circulated yesterday (September 18).
This could mean a lack of appointments available as well as the cancellation of scheduled ones with self-employed GPs and specialists across the country - although the level of planned take-up remains to be confirmed.
Self-employed GPs make up 56% of doctors in France, equating to around 115,000 to 120,000 medics.
In particular, doctors are looking to increase consultation fees, with the union saying the government must “invest in making these professions attractive.”
Doctors want consultation fees raised
The strike action comes after failures in negotiations between doctors’ unions and Assurance Maladie (the state health insurance service) last winter to increase consultation fees.
Fees to visit a doctor are already set to rise from €25 to €26.50 (and from €30 to €31.50 to see a specialist) due to an arbitration settlement earlier this year, although the unions were unhappy with this result.
Calls for the minimum set fee of a consultation between the unions differ but range from between €30 and €50.
Currently, the Assurance Maladie covers 70% of a visit to a GP or specialist, with a patient’s mutuelle (top-up insurance) covering much of the rest, if they have one.
Representatives say that fees need to be increased to help doctors continue to do their job as with increasing administrative responsibilities they are able to see fewer patients.
“We are warning the government about the extreme tension in the profession," said Jean-Christophe Nogrette, deputy secretary-general of MG France, one of the unions representing doctors.
MG France is calling for a one day strike – that could be followed by other singular days of action – but other unions are calling for strike action with no definite end date from October 13.
During the strike, doctors will undergo an “indefinite stoppage of activity,” said Patrick Gasser, president of the Avenir Spé, another union.
Ire not just over consultation fees
Alongside consultation fees, doctors are also angry at a new bill proposed by MP Frédéric Valletoux of Horizons (a centrist party allied to President Macron).
The bill is aimed at "improving access to care through the territorial commitment of professionals,” but many doctors fear it will lead to more obligations for self-employed doctors, particularly including increased requirements to stay on-call for longer.
Doctors are also still up in arms over the state health insurance service’s questioning of doctors regarding the high levels of sick leave prescribed in the country.
A ‘general strike’ on October 13?
All of France’s major unions have confirmed strike action is set to take place on October 13.
This includes workers in both the public and private sectors, and could significantly affect travel on that day. Air traffic controllers are expected to join in.
Despite the announcement coming last month, exact details on the strike have yet to be released.
In particular, the strike will be over pay and pension increases, as well as gender equality in workplaces.
It is unclear whether certain sectors will go on a ‘renewable’ strike action as doctors may be heading for, however.