How the French government plans to solve hospitals crisis

The French government on Wednesday unveiled its response to the growing hospitals crisis in the hope it will bring an end to months of protests and industrial action by French emergency medics who describe a system at "breaking point". Here are the details.

How the French government plans to solve hospitals crisis
French hospitals are under pressure. Photo; AFP

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Wednesday unveiled a three-pronged plan to tackle the crisis, saying: “Health workers cannot take it any more… and we have heard them.”

Philippe said hospitals would get an additional €1.5 billion over the next three years.

Emergency department staff at French hospitals have been staging industrial action for months and last week took to the streets to protest at their working conditions and the threat to patient safety that they present.

READ ALSO The seven numbers that explain the French hospitals crisis

In response to the protest, the French government has unveiled plans to pump more money into the system to tackle the worst problems.

They will take on some hospital debt, increase the health insurance budget for hospitals and give an immediate pay rise to thousands of medical staff.

Edouard Philippe told reporters: “€10 billion of debt will be taken from hospitals over three years, which will restore the financial balance of the institutions.

“This debt assumption will allow hospitals to find ways to invest. (…) It is an unprecedented sign of the nation's trust.”

Many French public hospitals labour under huge burdens of debt, creating a vicious circle as they a forced to spend large parts of their income on interest an debt repayments.

The government is also increasing the health insurance budget for hospitals by €1.5 billion over the next three years.

Although the government funds medical care in France, hospitals do not get their money as an annual lump sum budget from the government.

Instead they charge patients for treatment, and the government reimburses the patients. So a hospital's financing depends on how many patients it treats and the type of treatment they have.

Around 70 percent of their budget comes from treatments, and just 30 percent in direct financing.

The extra money that Philippe unveiled essentially means hospitals can charge more for their procedures.

And medical staff will also get a income boost – an annual bonus of €300 a year for all staff and €800 a year for anyone who earns below €1,900 a month and lives in the great Paris Île-de-France region.

In the longer term, more radical changes will be needed as France, like other European countries, struggles to cope with an ageing population and more people living with chronic health conditions such as diabetes.

French government spokesman Sibeth Ndiaye, speaking to The Local at an event organised by the Anglo American Press Association, said: “The system is not set up to deal with chronic conditions such as diabetes and an ageing population.

“We have an ageing population and more long term illnesses so we need systemic reform to provide more medical services in the community and less hospital care.”

She acknowledged that there were medical professionals who were working in conditions that are “not good”.





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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.