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France plans 100 medical buses to improve rural access to healthcare

The buses have everything onboard needed to offer the same service as a typical doctor’s surgery

A red emergency cross sign on the side of a white bus

The buses cost between €100,000-€400,000, depending on the model. Pic: AnneMS / Shutterstock

France is aiming to have 100 medical buses operational by the end of next year to fight ‘medical deserts’ and make care more accessible in rural areas.

Junior Health Minister Agnès Firmin-Le Bodo said the buses would “allow more than two million extra people in France to have access to a doctor” and to “travel the final kilometre towards patients”.

The buses have everything onboard needed to offer the same service as a typical doctor’s surgery. Larger buses are also expected to have other specialists available, including dentists and gynaecologists.

Read also: Seven questions about ‘medical deserts’ in France 

Buses already in operation

The rollout of 100 such buses - dubbed ‘médicobus’ in French - comes after a trial began operating in Orne (Normandy), in October 2020. 

This bus began offering medical care to 9,000 patients in the surrounding area who would otherwise be without a GP. Most of the doctors work part-time and are mainly recently retired career GPs.

The vehicle travels around several villages in the area, which has been identified as most in need of better healthcare provision. 

Read more: French villages fight doctor shortage with medical bus 

There are already 10 médicobuses in operation and eight are set to open shortly. They are in the departments of Orne, Manche and Lozère and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

The government is aiming for around 30 new buses to be in operation by the first quarter of 2024 and for 100 to be operational by the year-end.

The buses cost between €100,000-€400,000, depending on the model. Between 30% and 50% of the cost will be paid for by the state, said Ms Firmin-Le Bodo. The total state cost of rolling out 100 vehicles will be around €20million, she said.

Read also

How can I find out which parts of France are lacking doctors?
France’s medical deserts ‘pushing more GPs to turn away new patients’
Eight facts to understand France’s issue of ‘medical deserts’

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