Oz firm becomes top French hospital operator

Australian health care provider Ramway has become France's largest private hospital operator after announcing on Wednesday that it had taken control of Générale de Santé.

Oz firm becomes top French hospital operator
Australian health care provider Ramsay has become France's largest private hospital operator. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Ramsay Health Care and its partner, insurer Crédit Agricole Assurances, acquired 83.43 percent of Générale de Santé, with Ramsay's 57 percent share costing it €429 million (Aus $627 million).

Générale de Santé is a leading operator of private hospitals in France comprising 75 facilities, including 61 hospitals, employing 19,000 staff.

Its acquisition brings Ramsay's total portfolio in France to 115 facilities, including 101 hospitals, making it the largest private hospital operator in the country, the company said in a statement.

Ramsay managing director Chris Rex said France, like Australia, had an expanding and aging population which was expected to generate increasing demand for health care.

"Since entering the French market in 2010 we have successfully grown the business and developed a comprehensive understanding of the marketplace," he said.

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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.