French presidential candidates’ proposals on healthcare staff shortage

Health Minister Olivier Véran - who is backing the candidacy of current President Emmanuel Macron - wants to introduce more "cooperation" between health professionals in the same region, "without rushing and without cutting back on security". [Esther Snippe/EURACTIV/Shutterstock]

French presidential candidates have put forward their proposals on how to tackle the country’s shortage of healthcare staff across several regions. EURACTIV France reports.

A total of 7.4 million people across France have “limited” access to a general practitioner, according to a set of 2021 figures. These areas are termed “medical deserts”, in which patients are faced with “the impossibility or great difficulty [in accessing] health professionals in a given area due to their absence or limited number,” according to the government’s website.

On Thursday (17 March), candidates presented their proposals to tackle the issue during an event organised by the French Hospital Federation (FHF).

Students filling the gap

“Eight million people do not have access to a doctor,” emphasised Green candidate Yannick Jadot at the event, continuing to say that the situation is “totally unacceptable”.

To overcome the lack of doctors in certain areas, Jadot proposed to make it compulsory for all medical students to settle in an area with health staff shortages during their final year of study and during their first two years of practice.

“It is not easy”, he said, but this would be a “transitional” period. “We will give ourselves the means in terms of remuneration, in terms of support for families, by ensuring that doctors can take holidays, etc,” he added.

Sending medical students to areas lacking sufficient healthcare staff is something others, such as right-wing candidate Valérie Pécresse of Les Républicains, have also proposed as a solution.

“I want young students in general medicine to have a fourth year of specialisation, and I want 4,000 junior doctors to be able to come and work in medical deserts for a year, and to increase the capacity of general practitioners in these areas”, she told healthcare staff during the event.

Socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo was less categorical, expressing that she did not want to make this compulsory for medical students.

Instead, she would like to “promote” the fourth internship year so that “it becomes a year of professionalisation and that we accompany these young people to the medical deserts, at a rate paid twice as much as the internship is today”. Hidalgo cited the same figure of almost 4,000 young people who would benefit from the scheme each year.

“Hospitals, general practitioners, but also, of course, the departments which have a very important role” would all help in training these young people, she added.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen of Rassemblement National also wanted such a scheme to be voluntary for medical students. “We could pay voluntary medical students, who, in exchange, would undertake to settle in under-resourced areas for a certain number of years”, she said.

All you really need to know about the French presidential election

On 10 and 24 April, the French will go to the polls to choose the president of the republic for the next five years.

 

More training and attracting health professionals 

On top of making training in areas short on health staff mandatory for young students, Jadot expressed his desire to train more doctors and health workers and support the development of medical centres and health centres.

Communist candidate Fabien Roussel, however, was against health centres which, according to him, cost “a fortune” to “municipalities and public spending”. Instead, Roussel proposed to improve the image of areas lacking healthcare staff.

“We could do a lot more simply by respecting doctors in their choice of establishment and creating the best environment around them,” he said.

Restoring the attractiveness of these areas was also a priority for Le Pen, who proposed guaranteeing public services, infrastructure, digital coverage and jobs for spouses.

“I am in favour of incentive measures, in particular the enhancement of the consultation rate in under-resourced areas or income tax relief,” she said.

Health Minister Olivier Véran – who is backing the candidacy of current President Emmanuel Macron – wants to introduce more “cooperation” between health professionals in the same region, “without rushing and without cutting back on security”.

“This will be done within the framework of a major conference of stakeholders that will bring together all health professionals, local authorities, but also […] the representatives of users themselves”, Véran explained.

“The means will be put on the table as well as the question of remuneration, particularly for the liberal professions,” he added. To ensure the supply of healthcare, the minister is also hoping to further develop so-called “telemedicine”.

A global plan 

Pécresse also proposed the implementation of a “global plan”, part of which will be devoted to the development of an “alliance of health professionals” in every French region. The initiative would aim to evaluate how medicine is practised in each region, with close communication between the city, public hospitals and private hospitals.

Pécresse and Véran voiced their support for massive investment in the training of doctors. “We need to have 25,000 more carers in hospitals,” Pécresse emphasised.

Roussel also suggested that in areas where the doctor to patient ratio is sufficient, incoming doctors should only “replace” those who leave.

Far-right candidate Éric Zemmour, who did not attend the event organised by the FHF, declared on broadcaster BFMTV in February last year that he wanted to hire “1,000 doctors paid by the state” to work in areas short on medical staff.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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