French healthcare professionals increase calls to vote against Le Pen

Health professionals criticised Le Pen's disregard for scientists and the most vulnerable, saying that her coming to power "would be an open door to charlatans, incompetence and inconsistency" in disregard of the most vulnerable.  [Ana Mercedes Corona Garza/Shutterstock]

French health professionals urged the electorate to vote against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen’s ‘problematic’ health programme just a few days before she meets incumbent President Emmanuel Macron in the final round of the polls. EURACTIV France reports.

More than 1,000 doctors, carers and researchers have called for a “clear rejection of the extreme right” in an op-ed published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche on 16 April.

“Beyond our differences of opinion, beyond the observations that we each have on the remedies to be brought to a weakened health system, we share the conviction that the project of the extreme right is opposed to the fundamental principles on which our social model is based,” the letter reads.

One of Le Pen’s key proposals is to abolish the so-called Aide Médicale d’Etat (AME), which allows people in irregular situations to benefit from free access to medical care if they have resided in France for three months and do not exceed a particular income ceiling.

If elected, the Rassemblement National candidate plans to change the scheme only to cover urgent care for adults, while minors will continue to benefit from the scheme in its entirety.

“An old idea, contrary to international conventions on the right to health, the abolition of the AME would endanger the entire population by encouraging the spread of seemingly non-urgent infectious diseases,” the health professionals wrote in their op-ed.

Le Pen’s proposal is “costly” since reducing access to care may encourage the spread of serious illnesses or infections which, if left untreated, will require heavy and therefore expensive care, they added.

In 2020, the AME cost €920 million, accounting for 0.4% of the country’s health expenditure, according to the National Federation of French Mutuals (Mutualité française).

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Opening the door to ‘quacks’

Le Pen’s proposal to drastically reduce the number of foreign doctors practising in France did not bode well with the health professionals who voiced concerns in the Journal du Dimanche op-ed.

“The far-right wants to stigmatise foreign doctors and professionals, our colleagues and friends. Of course, they would not be banned from practising in the short term. But how can we accept the attack on their dignity by designating them as intruders?” the health professionals said in response to Le Pen’s proposed measure.

According to her programme, Le Pen wants to “open a sufficient number of places in medical schools to ensure the French have the doctors they need, to reduce medical desertification and drastically reduce reliance on doctors who have obtained their diplomas outside the European Union.”

Carers also said they would vote for Macron despite disagreeing on some issues in another op-ed, published by the French newspaper Libération on Sunday (17 April).

These health professionals criticised Le Pen’s disregard for scientists and the most vulnerable, saying that her coming to power “would be an open door to charlatans, incompetence and inconsistency,” disregarding the most vulnerable. 

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Macron’s ‘not-so-stellar’ record

While healthcare staff are calling for people to vote against Le Pen, this does not mean they are happy with Macron’s five-year term and handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

“We think that the optimism Emmanuel Macron is now displaying towards this virus is misplaced,” they pointed out in Libération. They also lamented the government’s “lack of determination” in combatting “quackery, often lending a complacent ear to those who discredit scientific knowledge and attribute imaginary vices to the mask or the vaccine.”

They also criticised France’s lifting of restrictions, particularly the recent abolition of mandatory mask-wearing in public enclosed spaces except for public transport. This “should have been accompanied by a robust and determined educational campaign encouraging everyone to continue to wear them out of concern for themselves and others.”

Other French health organisations, such as Family Planning, have also launched appeals to vote for Macron in the final election round on Sunday (24 April).

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[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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