France announces crackdown on fake medical certificates to access gyms

Authorities in France have announced a crackdown after reports of people using fake medical certificates to access gyms and swimming pools - which are closed under lockdown rules.

France announces crackdown on fake medical certificates to access gyms
Illustration photo: AFP

Gyms and swimming pools across the country have been closed since October, when France entered its second lockdown.

However there is an exemption for those with prescription médicale d’activité physique adaptée (APA) – a medical certificate prescribing sport as a treatment for those battling long-term or chronic illness.

Elite athletes and sports professionals also have the right to use the facilities.

However, a number of people are reportedly convincing their doctors to give them an APA just to cover their normal workouts. The increase in online medical consultations – promoted as a safer option for many during the pandemic – has also been blamed for this.

READ ALSO Café terraces, shops and gyms – what will France’s timetable for reopening be?

President of the medical union Confédération des syndicats médicaux français (CSMF) Jean-Paul Ortiz told Le Parisien: “It shows how many non-regulated virtual consultations are opening the door to these practices.

“The consultations should be limited to a person’s registered doctor (médecin traitant), getting an APA certificate virtually is not good medical practice.”

Owners of gyms and swimming pools have difficulty scrutinising the certificates and questioning those entering their doors given the privacy surrounding such medical matters. 

Not only that, but after six months of closure, many owners are turning a blind eye to the dodgy certificates to keep their business afloat. 

One gym owner told Le Parisien: “I’m accepting simple medical certificates [rather than specific APAs].

“I know that isn’t the rule, but it’s either that or I’m going to lose a client who will then go into another gym which will say yes. At the moment I need the money. As a gym owner, Covid has hit us hard.”

Police are nonetheless cracking down on gyms and their users.

Regular patrols are taking place in the gyms of Paris and across the country. 

At the start of April, 23 people were given a warning for not being able to show a medical certificate at gyms in Marseille.  Two gyms were also given a formal warning and one was forced to close for 15 days. 

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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.