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HEALTH

‘Thank you France, for offering me citizenship to recognise my work during the pandemic’

After working as a carer for the elderly throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Brit John Spacey was offered fast-track citizenship by the French government.

'Thank you France, for offering me citizenship to recognise my work during the pandemic'
France has offered fast-track citizenship to foreigners who did vital work during the pandemic. Photo: AFP

Among the thousands of workers on the frontline in France during the pandemic were many foreign nationals, so in September the Interior Ministry ministry invited them to apply for fast-track naturalisation, saying they had “proved their commitment to the republic”.

Among the nearly 3,000 health workers, childcare professionals, cleaners and retail staff who applied was British man John Spacey, who lives in Creuse in central France and works for an organisation providing domestic care for the elderly.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

 

Soon-to-be Frenchman John Spacey in his garden in Creuse. Photo: John Spacey

People who apply under this scheme still have to complete the relevant paperwork and pass the tricky test on French history and culture, but can apply without having the five-year residency qualification.

Their application is also fast-tracked from the usual 18 months to two-year average to a process of just a few months.

John explains: “When Covid struck I continued working throughout the first wave.

“The hours became longer and the planning changed constantly as colleagues became sick, decided they’d prefer not to take the risk or simply found the new conditions unbearable, but I stuck with it.

“I followed all the protocols and neither myself nor any of my clients contracted the virus, although some of my colleagues did. Then came the second wave and things continued as in the first, but I love my job so, for me, there was never any question of giving up.

“Just before Christmas I received the news I was to be given a one-off payment from the State as a kind of merci for services rendered during the crisis, something for which I was very grateful and that I’d not expected, given I’d been being paid for my work anyway.

READ ALSO Ten reasons why you should consider becoming French

 

“Then came another, far more unexpected, thank you – the chance to apply for French nationality six months earlier than would have been possible under the normal rules and to have the process fast-tracked. All for doing a job I love.

“I’ve now begun the process and, all being well, I should be French before les grues (cranes) make their noisy reappearance.” 

John, originally from Bolton in north west England, moved to France in 2016 after funding was cut for his role as a support worker for disabled people under the UK government's austerity drive.

After struggling to survive financially he moved to France with €800 in his pocket, saying “my command of the French language was no more than the lyrics to a Lady Marmalade song and those of another by Kylie Minogue, the latter being far more helpful than the former.”

After working a variety of odd jobs and learning the language he moved back into the sector he felt most passionate about – the care sector.

QUIZ Do you know France well enough to become French?

He said: “It genuinely feels like a great honour to be offered citizenship.

“France has been very good to me since my arrival and has given me opportunities I could never have dreamed of before stepping off the Eurostar in 2016 – a home of my own, a wonderful relationship, a twenty-year-old Peugot 106, a forty-year-old Mobilette, the most satisfying job in the world and a very bright future.

“Soon, I’ll be able to vote, will regain my freedom of movement and will finally feel fully European once more, finally feel fully integrated into the nation I’ve already come to love like my own.

“Vivre, et merci, La France.”

 

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STRIKES

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

General practitioners in France are planning another industrial action that will see doctors' offices closed as they call for better investment in community healthcare.

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

Primary care doctors in France announced plans to strike again in February, after walkouts in December and over the Christmas-New Year holidays in early January.

The strike will take place on Tuesday, February 14th, and it comes just a few weeks ahead of the end-of-February deadline where France’s social security apparatus, Assurance Maladie, must reach an agreement to a structure for fees for GPs for the next five years.

Hospital doctors in France are largely barred from striking, but community healthcare workers such as GPs are self-employed and therefore can walk out. 

Their walk-out comes amid mass strike actions in February over the French government’s proposed pension reform. You can find updated information on pensions strikes HERE.

Previous industrial action led to widespread closures of primary care medical offices across the country. In December, strike action saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.

READ MORE: Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France

New concerns among GPs

According to reporting by La Depeche, in the upcoming strike in February primary care doctors will also be walking out over a new fear – the possibility of compulsory ‘on-call’ hours.

Currently, French GPs take on-call hours on a voluntary basis. Obligatory on-call time for primary care doctors was scrapped in the early 2000s after GPs mobilised against the requirement.

However, representatives from the Hospital Federation have called for it to be reinstated in order to help relieve emergency services.

Additionally, GPs are calling for Saturday shifts to considered as part of their standard working week, in order to allow for a two-day weekend.

Striking primary care doctors are more broadly calling for actions by the government and Assurance Maladie to help make the field more appealing to younger physicians entering the profession, as the country faces more medical deserts, and for working conditions to be improved.

Those walking out hope to see administrative procedures to be simplified and for the basic consultation fee – typically capped to €25 – to be doubled to €50.

In France patients pay the doctor upfront for a visit, and then a portion of the fee is reimbursed by the government via the carte vitale health card.

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