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France announces ‘first measures’ to tackle hospital staff shortages

Student nurses will be allowed to begin work before they get their diplomas and extra hours will receive double-time pay, the health minister has announced

The French government is to introduce interim measures to tackle hospital staff shortages before the publication of its official emergency strategy Pic: ricochet64 / Shutterstock

A series of new “first measures” designed to tackle the shortage of healthcare workers which is slowing down the operations of hospitals around France has been announced by the French government. 

Read more: Sarlat, Jonzac: Hospitals in France where situation is ‘very worrying’

Brigitte Bourguignon, France’s new health minister, said yesterday (June 8) that extra hours worked would receive double-time pay, and student nurses would be “immediately” employable in order to keep feeding new staff into struggling hospital services. 

She said that these measures would be brought in “without waiting” for the conclusions of the emergency strategy which has already been announced by President Emmanuel Macron on May 31.

François Braun, the president of the Samu-Urgences de France union, has been put in charge of developing this plan, and will present a report on July 1 at the latest, explaining where the shortages are being felt most keenly in different areas of the country.

“We are going to look hospital by hospital at the difficulties being observed: staff fatigue, recurring sick leave, an inability to recruit [new employees…] to create an exhaustive map by the beginning of the summer,” the president said.

Ms Bourguignon warned that “the summer will be difficult,” and that her department would need to “find solutions so that people in France were not deprived of healthcare.” 

This comes as emergency departments in at least 120 hospitals have been forced to limit their activity, according to Samu-Urgences de France, and healthcare workers took strike action on Tuesday (June 7), calling for something to be done to avoid unnecessary deaths.

Read more: French hospital workers strike over ‘disastrous’ staff shortages

Ms Bourguignon said that “the government is taking up its responsibilities in the face of this crisis,” and that it had “decided to reinstate the doubling of pay for overtime worked by non-medical staff, and for doctors, for the whole summer period.”

She also made reference to an “exceptional measure” which would mean that student nurses and carers who complete their initial training this or next month will be able to start work “immediately,” without waiting for their diplomas to be officially awarded. 

Any retired healthcare workers who are willing to return to work will be able to claim their pension along with their salary. 

In addition, regional health agencies (ARS) have been called upon to “remobilise crisis management measures for their area,” to better coordinate public hospitals and private clinics. 

These “first measures will soon be accompanied by the proposals of the Braun strategy,” Ms Bourguignon said. 

Not enough doctors to certify a death 

The health ministry’s measures aim to reduce the likelihood of situations like that experienced by one family in Hérault, when their 77-year-old mother died suddenly at home. 

The woman died in her bathroom on Monday morning (June 6), but there were not enough doctors available to come and certify the death, and her family were not allowed to move her body until they arrived.

They had to wait until the end of the day, France Bleu reports. 

The woman’s son in law said: “We called 15 and 18. My neighbour called the gendarmerie and also the Agence Régionale de Santé. The gendarme whom we were speaking to confirmed that there were no [available] doctors on call. 

“Even he was outraged; he had never seen something like this before.

“They told us that the body would have to stay where it was until Tuesday morning in the best-case scenario. And what’s more, she didn’t have a GP anymore; hers had retired not long before. 

“I’m angry. We can’t do anything and that’s very hard psychologically. 

“Even for my worst enemy I would not let them treat a body like that.” 

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Hospital shortages in France: Macron rules out unvaccinated workers

French pharmacists to offer biosimilar medicines: What does it mean?

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