‘One in six calls to French emergency services go unanswered’

One in six calls -- or 4.6 million -- to the French emergency medical services is not picked up, a new investigation claims.

'One in six calls to French emergency services go unanswered'
Photo: AFP
This is out of a total of 29.2 million calls made to 101 centres across France. 
The worrying investigation, carried out by Le Point using the health services' own database of statistics for 2016, ranked the emergency medical service centres according to how effectively they respond to calls. 
And it showed that the rate of emergency calls that go unanswered in Paris is particularly high, with just over 50 percent of calls not followed up. 

Photo: AFP

Similarly, in Perpignan near the Mediterranean coast, just over 42 percent of calls were not followed up. 
The situation was also revealed as particularly bad in the French overseas territories, with 57 percent of calls not picked up in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, and 37.39 percent in Fort-de-France. France, Martinique.
Only two call centres across France, in Orleans and Verdun met the goal of answering calls within a minute, which should be standard practice.
According to the report, in Paris just 36 percent of calls were handled within a minute, making the the SAMU centre in the French capital one of the worst.
The news puts an uncomfortable spotlight on SAMU just a few months after the public outcry over the death of a young woman from Strasbourg when her distress call to emergency services was mocked by the operator.
However the president of Samu disputed on Thursday the results of the report. 
“I believe that Samu is not exemplary in its operation, but what must be said is that it is not 4.6 million patients who have been unable to contact the service” François Braun told the French press. 
“There are not – and we are absolutely certain of it – 4.6 million patients who cannot reach Samu, imagine for a moment that this is true, it would be a health scandal that wouldn't have taken years to be revealed,” 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.