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HEALTH

France launches new hotline for out-of-hours medical help

France is rolling out a new number for out-of-office hours consultations with GPs. But it's only in certain areas, for now.

France launches new hotline for out-of-hours medical help
Photo: AFP
If you're living in Corsica, Normandy, or Pays-de-la-Loire then you're among the guinea pigs testing a new 24-hour doctor's helpline. 
 
Those calling the toll-free number can organize home visits, get advice, or sort out an emergency home-visit if need be. 
 
The Health Ministry is rolling out the new line on Thursday – reachable by dialling 116 117 – but only in the three regions mentioned above. 
 
If the test is deemed a success, then the rest of France will be able to benefit from it too by the end of the year. 
 
Health Minister Marisol Touraine noted that the number was “simple and easy to remember” at the launch, 
 
The ministry launched the line in the aim of getting people to stop using the “15” number just to get information, when it's supposed to be used strictly for emergencies.
 
The new number won't be available around the clock, however. Users can only get through after 8pm each night, after midday on Saturday, and throughout the day on public holidays.
 
With the new 116 117 line, France can now lay claim to a total of 12 emergency numbers (although here at The Local we think it's time France had one number to rule them all).
 
In case you're in need: 
 
Dial 17 for the police, dial 18 for firefighters, or 15 for ambulance crews.
 
The coastguard is 196, to report an aeronautical emergency it's 191 and for missing children its 116 000. Then there's 115 for emergency shelter and 119 to report children in danger.
 
Then there is 112, which works as a Europen-wide emergency number, 114 is a text messaging hotline for those who are hard of hearing, and 197 is for kidnapping or terror. 
 
And in case you weren't confused enough, add 116 117 for the out-of hours GP and you're on your way. Good luck. 

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HEALTH

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.

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