• Tuesday, August 4, 2020

France boosts health funding to offset public hospital crisis

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  1. Vergennes

    Vergennes PROFESSIONAL

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    The French state will take on 10 billion euros of public hospital debt over the next three years as part of an emergency package unveiled by the government on Wednesday in response to months of protests in the health sector.


    French hospital workers have been striking for months in protest at years of cutbacks they say have harmed care in a country with a public health system that was once the envy of the world.

    In a bid to offset the crisis, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe unveiled an emergency package on Wednesday “that will allow hospitals to reduce their deficit and rapidly recover the means to invest.”

    Starting in 2020, the state will take on 10 billion euros in debt owed by public hospitals over three years, Edouard said.

    Hospitals’ health insurance budget will increase by 1.5 billion euros over the same period, the prime minister added.

    Public hospitals in France have been forced to cut 9 billion euros off their debts since 2005, leading to the scrapping of hundreds of beds and dozens of operating theatres while stagnant salaries have fuelled a flight to the private sector.

    In an effort to stem the staff hemorrhage, Health Minister Agnès Buzyn on Wednesday promised a “permanent” annual bonus of 800 euros for staff in the Paris region earning less than 1,900 euros per month.

    “We need to recognise the particular situation in Paris and its close suburbs,” Buzyn said, pointing to the higher cost of living.

    Work stoppages

    The protests began in March when emergency room staff, who complain of elderly patients being left for hours on trolleys in corridors while waiting for a bed, began strike action.

    Over 260 emergency rooms nationwide are still affected by the work stoppages.

    Staff in hospitals across the country have complained of exhaustion, low salaries, a lack of resources, and being swamped with paperwork.

    In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked France's health system the best of 191 countries.

    But a study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation published in The Lancet medical journal in 2017 placed it in 15th place for quality of care.

    The country is still one of Europe's biggest spenders when it comes to healthcare.

    In 2016, France spent 12 percent of its GDP on health, well above the western European average of 10 percent, and was also the country where the patient's share of the health bill was the lowest.

    New winter of discontent?

    The protests have created jitters in the government, which fears that hospital staff could band together with other disgruntled groups such as transport workers who are planning mass strike action in December over pension reforms.

    Three health plans in the past two years have failed to appease the anger of beleaguered hospital staff.

    President Emmanuel Macron is desperate to head off another winter of discontent, a year after the start of the Yellow Vest revolt.

    Promising substantial investments last week, Macron said he had "heard the anger and the indignation over working conditions" in hospitals – though arguing that his centrist government had inherited an ailing hospital system.

    Protesters are demanding 3.8 billion euros in emergency investment in public hospitals -- twice the amount originally set aside in a draft 2020 budget currently before parliament.

    On Thursday, the upper house of the parliament, the right-wing dominated Senate, threw out a draft social security bill at its first reading in protest over what some senators described as Macron's "disdain" for the workers in the sector.

    Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has warned that hiking health spending will mean having to make cuts elsewhere, with France's budget deficit already expected to breach an EU limit of 3 percent of GDP this year.

    https://www.france24.com/en/2019112...ke-protest-edouard-philippe-emergency-package