Macron offers solutions but no magic cure for France's stricken health system

AP - Ludovic Marin

French President Emmanuel Macron has unveiled his government's plans for the health sector, which is struggling with overcrowded hospitals and a lack of staff in rural areas. But in a New Year address to health workers, he also warned the crisis could deepen in the coming years.

Macron said his government would work towards stepping up recruitment of medical staff and reorganise hospital work by June 2023 to help get the health system out of the "endless" crisis it has fallen into.

In his first New Year’s address to France’s healthworkers since taking office in 2017, Macron said he wanted to “go much faster, much stronger and take radical decisions”.

But he also warned the situation in France "could get worse regarding medical demographics", pointing to France's ageing population which means a high number of doctors and nurses are retiring, many without being replaced by equally skilled workers.

France's health sector has been suffering in recent years, with the Covid-19 pandemic – when many medical workers chose to quit the profession – adding to already stretched resources in hospitals and medical practices.

The recent triple epidemic of Covid, flu and bronchiolitis has put additional strain on the system.

Insufficient measures

Macron highlighted measures taken during his first term in office such as the abolition in 2018 of the numerus clausus which capped the number of medical students.

The 10 years required to train a doctor meant it would be necessary to live with a shortage of healthcare workers “in the years to come”, he warned.

Macron also said he wanted to reorganise work in hospitals by 1 June, to make them more attractive for staff.

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