A French GP in Marne (Grand Est) has decided to no longer accept patients who are not vaccinated against Covid or who have not had a negative Covid test within the past 24 hours.
Patrice Mercier, who has his cabinet in Châlons-en-Champagne, justified the decision by highlighting the necessity to protect his most vulnerable patients.
“This is not a refusal of treatment. It is a refusal to put my patients at risk,” he told local newspaper L'Union.
He said he would still see any patient whose life was in danger, regardless of their vaccination status.
His decision has been criticised by the Marne board of doctors.
“The choice of this doctor is not in line with what is advocated by the board and the recommendations of the health authorities", Jacques Lorentz, president of board, said.
However, Dr Mercier is unlikely to face any sanctions for his decision, which does not violate any specific rules.
Article 47 of the code set out by the national board of doctors, the Conseil national de l‘Ordre des médecins, states:
“Except in emergencies and when failing in his or her duties of humanity, a physician has the right to refuse treatment for professional or personal reasons.”
It adds that “continuity of care” must still be provided. This means that if one of Dr Mercier’s unvaccinated patients chooses to see a different GP or specialist, Dr Mercier will be obliged to pass on the relevant patient information to them.
Dr Mercier has said his decision has had a positive impact on his current patients.
“Many of our patients say they are reassured by this choice,” he said.
“Outside social networks, we have only had one hostile reaction.”
Dr Mercier is not the first GP in France to deny treatment to unvaccinated people.
A doctor in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté put up a sign in his cabinet in December 2021 saying that unvaccinated patients were not allowed to enter, except in emergency situations.
The doctor took down the sign after just two days after a discussion with the local board of doctors, 20 Minutes reported.
Pressure on unvaccinated increases
Dr Mercier’s decision comes at a time when more and more medical professionals in France are placing increasing pressure on unvaccinated people.
The head of major Paris hospital group AP-HP has, for example, hypothetically questioned if unvaccinated people in France should have to pay for their Covid-related medical care.
Martin Hirsch, director-general of Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP) – which comprises 39 Paris hospitals that treat more than 8.3 million patients per year – raised the issue on TV discussion show C à Vous on France 5 on Wednesday (January 26).
He said: “When a free, preventative measure is available, which can be used, which is recognised by the scientific community as something useful; and someone decides not to take it, can they really do that without there being any consequences?
“Or do we reach out to help, but we say there is no reason that there wouldn’t be consequences for them, when there will be [consequences] for other patients who we are struggling to care for, who can’t do anything about their condition.”
He added: “I don’t want to close the doors of the hospital to anyone, but we must encourage responsibility, which allows everyone to benefit.”
Newly instated vaccine passes are also putting more pressure on unvaccinated people.
Since January 24, it has no longer been possible to use a negative Covid test to enter the majority of leisure-orientated public venues, such as cafes, restaurants and cinemas. Now, proof of being fully vaccinated or having recovered from Covid is required.
This is, however, not the case for hospitals, retirement homes and certain other medical establishments, where proof of a negative Covid test, taken in the past 24 hours, can still be used to gain entry.
Fewer than five million people aged 12 and over in France remain unvaccinated against Covid.