Is Switzerland ‘pilfering’ health workers from France during pandemic?

Officials in the Haute-Savoie area of France have accused private Swiss health clinics of poaching essential healthcare workers.

Is Switzerland 'pilfering' health workers from France during pandemic?
Health care workers from France prefer to work on the Swiss side of the border. Photo by AFP

The headline in Switzerland's Le Temps newspaper reads: “Geneva is pilfering our nurses”.

It comes from an interview with a French MP who laments how France is losing health workers to its neighbour at the height of a health crisis.

“The behaviour of some hospital administrators in Switzerland is totally unacceptable in the context of the health crisis”, Haute-Savoie’s deputy Martial Saddier said in an interview with Le Temps newspaper. 

He was referring to a practice of Swiss clinics recruiting health workers in France which French officials like Saddier says has caused a shortage of personnel in French hospitals in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Saddier denounced several private clinics in Geneva for actively recruiting nursing staff from Haute-Savoie, luring them with salaries that are about two and a half times higher than those paid in the French region.

Though the phenomenon of medical workers from Haute-Savoie ‘migrating’ to Geneva is not new — 60 percent of nursing staff at Geneva’s university hospitals (HUG) live in France — Saddier said these recruitments should not happen during the pandemic. 

“While the number of infected people may be high in Geneva, Haute-Savoie is not spared either, with rates among the highest in France. We need all our vital forces”, he said.

Olivier Teissèdre, director of Hôpital privé Pays de Savoie (HPPS) pointed out that already during the first wave of Covid-19, “350 of our caregivers were recruited in Geneva, which put us in great difficulty. Today I lost 4 percent of my staff and had to shut down a night shift”.

“Now the shortage of caregivers is crucially felt because the care of Covid-19 patients is particularly heavy”, he added.

READ MORE: IN PICTURES: Swiss flags hang over protesting French ski village 

At the start of the second wave, the HPSS set up a partnership with another Haute-Savoie medical facility, the Alpes-Léman public hospital.

“But we no longer have enough employees to maintain this partnership because there is too much movement of staff toward Switzerland”, Teissèdre said.

At the start of the pandemic, an agreement was reached with the Geneva authorities to stop recruiting medical personnel from France, but this commitment only concerns public hospitals. No such pact was made with private clinics.

Laurent Paoliello, spokesperson for Geneva’s Health Department said that while HUG, which is a public hospital, has respected the hiring freeze, the canton can’t impose similar restrictions on recruitment policies of private establishments.

“However, we consider it inappropriate to loot the region next door, especially during a pandemic”, he said.

Although the Haute-Savoie officials say that private hospitals have placed ads in a local newspaper, Le Dauphiné libéré, seeking French health care workers, Geneva’s clinics deny advertising in France.

“We only recruit through our site, or on, as well as on social networks”, said Magali Dauwalder, spokesperson for the Hirslanden group of private hospitals, which manages La Colline et les Grangettes clinics in Geneva.

READ MORE: Switzerland rejects further coronavirus lockdown despite 'worrying' situation 


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Cross-border children from France can’t attend Swiss schools

When the Swiss school year resumes on August 24th, kids living in France won't be able to attend schools in Geneva, despite a legal battle.

Cross-border children from France can’t attend Swiss schools
Kids living in France won't be allowed to attend Geneva schools. Photo: AFP

In 2019, the French region called the 'Pôle métropolitain du Genevois français', which encompasses 120 French communes adjacent to the Swiss border, filed a lawsuit in Geneva to force cantonal authorities to allow cross-border students to attend their public schools.

The legal action was launched to appeal Geneva's previous decision to no longer admit children domiciled outside the canton to compulsory schools.

This week, the city of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, which is located on the French side of the border just 10 kilometres from Geneva, withdrew the lawsuit.

It deemed the legal process “tedious and expensive” and the outcome too uncertain to continue the fight, as reported by Tribune de Genève.

Geneva had previously accepted students from across the border if places in classrooms were available. Many families live in France but work in Switzerland, known as frontaliers.

With the new ruling, however, the only exceptions will be made for the French children who already started their education in the canton, or whose siblings attend Geneva schools.

But no new students from France will be accepted.

READ MORE: Can Swiss cantons force you to send your child to school despite quarantine? 

According to Cantonal Statistics Office, 1,500 primary and secondary school students in Geneva live in neighbouring France.

The Pôle métropolitain authorities want children from their area to attend schools in Geneva because their own education system is under strain due to much stronger demographic growth in their region than in Geneva itself.

Geneva State Council President Antonio Hodgers hailed France's decision to withdraw the lawsuit as a “wise move”.