PARIS -- French President Emmanuel Macron announced an overhaul of France’s struggling health system Friday, including new funding methods for doctors and hospitals, more hiring and other organizational changes.
Macron’s speech came as many hospitals in France have reported major difficulties in recent weeks, with emergency units overwhelmed by patients with flu, COVID-19 and bronchiolitis infections.
Family doctors also went on strike during the end-of-year holiday to call for an increase in their consultation fees — currently set to 25 euros ($26) — and better working conditions.
In a speech at a hospital in Evry, a southern suburb of Paris, Macron vowed to “respond to the concerns of many of our fellow citizens (who want) to get health care within a short time ... and to the concerns, anxiety, tiredness of health care professionals.”
He announced the recruitment of thousands of medical assistants to help doctors.
“Our collective challenge in the short-term is to free up some time for doctors to take care of patients ... both in private practice and at hospital,” he said.
Macron announced major changes in the way hospitals get funding so that they are not penalized anymore when they do complex, time-consuming activities.
He also vowed to increase fees of doctors on condition they are involved in ensuring the continuity of health care in their area and accept new patients. Details of the changes are to be worked out in the coming months, he said.
Talks are also to be held by June about working time rules in hospitals, he said, saying the current system is inefficient.
Considered one of the best in the world, the French health care system has for many years years suffered from a shortage of doctors and other professionals, a situation aggravated by the COVID-19 crisis.
Recent changes allowed the country to train more doctors and nurses, yet it will take years to see the impact of such measures, Macron stressed.
France's health care system involves a state-funded health insurance that reimburses patients most of the cost of consultations, medical interventions and medicines prescribed by a doctor. In addition, the French can also apply to private insurance to increase their health coverage.