Villagers in France banned from being ill
A dozen small-town mayors have highlighted the lack of rural doctors by signing a symbolic decree making it illegal for local residents to fall ill or die.
The decree says it is forbidden in their communes to “seek urgent access to care for any pathology” or have “an accident or serious illness”, or to “be born with health problems”.
It “allows” residents of the communes, all in the Sarthe department in Pays de la Loire, to move to the Alpes-Maritimes or to Paris to access efficient health services.
A village mayor in the Loire department in the east issued an order earlier making it illegal to die on weekends or bank holidays after no doctor was on call to record a death.
Statistics body Insee listed 226,000 working doctors in France in 2018, the most recent figures available, similar to a UK government figure of around 250,000 licensed doctors.
However, they are unevenly distributed, with the Riviera in particular being better supplied.
Almost one doctor in three is aged over 60, and doctors who retire remain difficult to replace in rural areas.
Isabelle Dugelet, mayor of La Gresle (population 842), who issued the no-death order, said: “We’ve known about the drop in doctors for a long time.
“We experience it daily. We’ve never actually had a proper doctor on the spot in our village.
“However, the fact that we had no doctor on duty on a weekend when we had a death made me react. I had a solution but it was complicated and took time.
“The order was a cry of anger to denounce the shortage of doctors, especially at those times that are difficult for the family of the deceased.”
Her villagers are used to having to go to nearby communes to see a doctor but Ms Dugelet said it has become harder to see one, even for routine matters.
The lack of accessibility also means many are not registered with a GP as their médecin traitant, so they get lower reimbursements, she said. “The problem comes from the new way of practising medicine. The new generations no longer want to spend long days and weeks at work,” she said.
“A territorial network should be established. The number of French doctors should be distributed over the territory according to the population and according to needs.
“Pharmacies are regulated as to where they can set up, but doctors can still go where they want.
“Young doctors nowadays often look for the advantages of being a salaried employee [eg. in hospitals and private clinics]. And there are now more women than men and they don’t necessarily want to work full-time.”
Around 3.8million people in France were living in a “medical desert” with inadequate access to GPs in 2018, according to state research body Drees. The number was 1.3million in 2015.
The CSMF doctors’ union said fewer new doctors want to go into independent practice, especially as GPs, but putting up the doctors’ state-regulated tariffs might help.
It said some measures are starting to take effect, such as aid to help doctors join in group practices, creating “medical assistants”, and telemedicine.
UK GPs try for French posts
Three UK-based doctors have responded to an appeal on Connexion’s website and newsletter for medics wanting to relocate to fill GP positions which have been vacant in the Dordogne for two years.
A UK dentist interested in moving to France and a medical secretary who lives nearby have also made contact with the local intercommunal body.
The Communauté de Communes Portes Sud Périgord decided to widen its “search pool” over the vacancies in Eymet after struggling to fill the posts with French doctors.
They thought an English-speaker might be interested due to the popularity of the area with other nationalities.
There are already two doctors, plus one who covers for holidays, but Marie Fossez at the Communautésaid the situation had
become urgent. “It’s difficult as nearly all the health centres here are in competition to attract at least one GP,” she said.
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