More foreign doctors fill gaps in French care

The number of doctors with foreign diplomas in France has shot up by 43 percent since 2008, it emerged on Wednesday. Many are specialists who are plugging holes in the nation's health care system, according to the French Medical Board.

More foreign doctors fill gaps in French care
Numbers of foreign doctors in France have risen sharply, doubling in certain regions in the last five years. File photo: Hang In There/Flickr

At the start of January, there were almost 18,000 doctors working in France with a medical degree completed outside the country.

The French Medical Board (Le Conseil de l'Ordre de Medecins – CNOM) revealed on Monday that the foreign-educated doctors account for nine percent of the profession. 

"If there have never before been as many registered doctors in France, it's due to the number of retired doctors still working and the influx of European and non-European doctors," the board noted in a statement.

The numbers of doctors with a non-French medical degree has swelled by 43 percent in a five-year period, with the surge most notable in the Auvergne region in central France, which employed almost double as many doctors with foreign diplomas in 2013 compared to 2008.

The BMF business newspaper reported that many hospitals across France resort to employing foreign-educated doctors to plug holes in certain specialities, including radiology and anesthesia. 

CNOM said it predicted that the current number of doctors educated abroad will continue to increase by about 34 percent in the coming five years. Among the foreign doctors registered with CNOM, more than one in five was Algerian, while Romanians and Belgians made up 17.7 and 8.9 percent, respectively.

The medical board underscored, however, that the new statistics did not include doctors who had not registered with CNOM, a group that probably represented "a significant number," according to CNOM spokesman Patrick Romestaing.

The review also showed that French health care was increasingly reliant on locum doctors, as their numbers increased by 5.2 percent in the past five-year period. However, 68 percent of doctors who were registered with the board in 2008 as substitute replacements had since taken permanent employment.

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France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.