President Emmanuel Macron has ruled out allowing hospital workers who are not vaccinated against Covid to return to the workplace, despite staff shortages causing increasing tension.
The president confirmed his views on the question during a visit to a hospital centre in Cherbourg, Manche, on May 31.
Since September 15, 2021, it has been mandatory for health professionals (as well as many other professions) to be vaccinated against Covid, or be suspended from their roles.
Mr Macron said: “In all honesty, the reinstatement of unvaccinated caregivers is absolutely not an answer to the problem we face today.”
It comes despite some medical professionals believing that non-vaccinated workers should be allowed to return, given that Covid is circulating at relatively low levels today.
Dr Patrick Pelloux, president of emergency doctor association l’Association des médecins urgentistes hospitaliers de France wrote in Le Parisien on May 17: “We cannot do without these 15,000 suspended people, even if they have made a mistake. There must be an amnesty.”
However, Mr Macron said that the suspended workers make up an “infinite minority” of the healthcare professionals in the country.
He said: “Let’s be honest, these workers have a very tenuous relationship to care and ethics compared to the rest of their colleagues, because today 95% of carers and workers have been vaccinated because they considered that it was their duty.
“They did it because it was their responsibility, and important for their medical ethics.”
During a visit to Barbazan-Debat (Hautes-Pyrénées) on April 29, Mr Macron said: “If [Covid] continues to drop, we may go in that direction.”
However, he appeared more cautious on the issue on May 31, adding: “I will wait for [medical advice body] le Conseil scientifique to say that we are back in a phase that allows this return [of staff] without difficulty.
“But more generally, I want our country to take this decision to its logical conclusion, by educating and convincing carers of the importance of vaccination.”
France is still seeing more than 18,270 new cases of Covid every day, although this is a record low over the past nine months. There are 952 Covid patients currently in intensive care units; again, a low since July 2021.
It comes just days after an association that represents small towns warned that hospitals in a growing number of areas in France are ”seeing their functioning decrease due to a lack of staff”.
On May 25, the Association des petites villes de France (APVF) called on the new Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon to acknowledge the "very worrying situation of emergency services in hospitals"
The APVF especially cited Sarlat (Dordogne), Jonzac (Charente-Maritime), Guingamp (Côtes-d'Armor) ou Chinon (Indre-et-Loire) as small-town hospitals “where activity is basically suspended”.
According to the Samu-Urgences de France, at least 120 hospitals are facing difficulties of operation due to a lack of staff.