Many primary care doctors/GPs in France plan to stage walkouts in response to a proposed bill aimed at combating medical deserts.
The bill is to be debated on Monday, June 12th.
Brought forward by Frédéric Valletoux, of the centre-right Horizons Party, the bill would change the current medical system so that primary care doctors are required to take on-call hours. Currently, this is done on a voluntary basis – obligatory on-call hours for GPs was scrapped in the early 2000s after mobilisation against the requirement.
It would also make it so that entry level doctors would not be able to take on locum work, and strengthen the regulatory role of regional health agencies (ARS).
In response to the bill, “Doctors for Tomorrow” an association representing healthcare professionals and general practitioners referred to the contents of the bill as a “final blow to primary care medicine”.
Devant ce nouveau coup porté à l'indépendance et à l'attractivité de notre métier. Nous rappelons la nécessité absolue d'investir massivement dans la médecine de proximité au risque de faire tomber la derrière digue qui empêche l'hopital de se noyer.
A VOUS !
Tous les médecins… pic.twitter.com/4I7GA2O5xN
— Médecins Pour Demain (@MedPourDemain) May 8, 2023
Specifically, the association denounced the text for not taking into consideration “the real needs of healthcare professionals”.
The French Union for Liberal Medicine, which also represents GPs, has joined in calls for strike action, adding, according to Le Parisien, that the bill could “permanently destabilise the general practitioner healthcare system, by causing a drop in GPs setting up their practices”.
Hospital doctors in France are not permitted to strike, but medecins généralistes are self-employed and therefore can strike.
For several months at the end of 2022 and start of 2023, GPs mobilised to increase government investment in making the field more attractive, which included pushback against making on-call hours mandatory. In December, walkouts by primary care physicians led saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.
France currently has a shortage of GPs and it is estimated that about 30.2 percent of the French population lives in a medical desert – a geographical zone where healthcare providers and general practitioners are severely lacking compared to the rest of the country.
For GPs, a large part of the problem has to do with the appeal of their field – particularly in regard to pay and the heavy administrative burden placed on them.
In April, France’s ministry of health said they would increase the rates for medical appointments, but instead of raising consult fees by €5, as unions had pushed for, the increase announced was €1.50.
In response, unions, such as the Confederation of French Medical Unions, called the rate increase ‘humiliating’, according to Le Parisien.