PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron has promised extra money and more doctors to ease pressure on France’s healthcare system.
Under reforms announced on Sept. 18, spending on healthcare will increase by 2.5 percent in 2019, higher than an initial 2.3 percent target and amounting to an additional 400 million euros ($470 million) in a nearly 200-billion-euro budget.
The national healthcare system, established on the foundations of a social safety net which reimburses patients most of their health expenses, relies on private doctors for straightforward diagnoses and hospitals for emergencies, surgery or grave illnesses.
Below are details of some of the measures presented by Macron, who hopes to reverse a decline in popularity.
Macron promised the recruitment of 4,000 medical assistants in urban areas by 2022 to handle paperwork, carry out simple medical gestures such as blood pressure checks, and free-up doctors. Exact status and job descriptions are to be spelled out in 2019.
The government will help recruit and pay 400 doctors to help treat patients in rural zones of France where medical coverage is scarce. Macron said he would reconsider the voluntary aspect of the measure in the next two to three years if not enough doctors apply.
Since 2004, public hospitals have paid for their costs from the income they receive from the state for treatments.
The state regulates how much it pays hospitals for each medical intervention. But pressure to keep public spending down over the past decade has led to drops in the prices the state pays while some hospitals have sometimes carried out unnecessary procedures to generate sufficient revenues.
Macron said he would to gradually end this system and explore other financing strategies such as “bonuses” that would be paid if hospitals meet predefined quality criteria.
Since 1971, the French government caps the number of students allowed to study medicine beyond their first year. The system, established at the time to increase competition and regulate the flow of students, has limited the number of new doctors who qualify and is expected to end by 2020.
To avoid overlaps and unnecessary spending, France wants to deploy data sharing of medical records on a national level. The measure has raised concerns among doctors and patients, some of whom say this jeopardizes confidentiality.
Remote online consultations, or telemedicine, are also to be considered. This is a significant and rapidly growing component of healthcare in countries such as the United States.
The government said it would invest 500 million euros to adapt online medical services by 2022.
Reporting by Matthias Blamont, Editing by Timothy Heritage