GP doctors in France walked out again on Tuesday, just a few weeks ahead of a key deadline in which France’s social security apparatus, Assurance Maladie, must reach an agreement to a structure for fees for GPs for the next five years.
A protest march was also due to take place from the Ministry of health to the French Senate in Paris.
Le Figaro reported that Tuesday’s strike action could be larger than previous mobilisations by general practitioners, and that this time SOS Médecins doctors will also walk out, as they call for the rates for home consultations to be upgraded.
READ MORE: Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France
Previously, general practitioners staged walkouts in December and over the Christmas-New Year holidays in early January.
Hospital doctors in France are largely barred from striking, but community healthcare workers such as GPs are self-employed and therefore can walk out.
Their walk-out comes amid mass strike actions in February over the French government’s proposed pension reform. You can find updated information on pensions strikes HERE.
Previous industrial action led to widespread closures of primary care medical offices across the country. In December, strike action saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.
New concerns among GPs
Doctors are concerned about the possibility of compulsory ‘on-call’ hours.
Currently, French GPs take on-call hours on a voluntary basis. Obligatory on-call time for primary care doctors was scrapped in the early 2000s after GPs mobilised against the requirement.
However, representatives from the Hospital Federation have called for it to be reinstated in order to help relieve emergency services.
Additionally, GPs are calling for Saturday shifts to considered as part of their standard working week, in order to allow for a two-day weekend.
Striking primary care doctors are more broadly calling for actions by the government and Assurance Maladie to help make the field more appealing to younger physicians entering the profession, as the country faces more “medical deserts” – parts of the country without GPs – and for working conditions to be improved.
Those walking out hope to see administrative procedures to be simplified and for the basic consultation fee – typically capped to €25 – to be doubled to €50.
In France patients pay the doctor upfront for a visit, and then a portion of the fee is reimbursed by the government via the carte vitale health card. The remainder, or part of it, is reimbursed via mutuelle insurance schemes.