NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Doctors Protest Rationing In France

February 4, 2000

About 8,000 doctors and other medical staff in Paris stopped work for three hours last week to attend rallies, reports the British Medical Journal, and thousands marched through other French cities to protest staff shortages and health budget restrictions imposed by the government.

  • Demonstrators denounced the "rationing of health care," introduced by former rightwing prime minister Alain Juppé in 1995 to reduce the growing deficit of the health insurance branch of the Sécurité Sociale (France's social insurance and national health care system).
  • The reforms were strongly criticized by the leftwing opposition, but continued after socialist Lionel Jospin became prime minister in 1998.
  • Thousands of hospital beds have been cut and the number of hospital staff was reduced.
  • Hospital expenditure in France accounts for about 40 percent of total health care costs; the overall hospital budget is set at Fr270 billion ($37 billion) for 2000.

Most hospital administrators complain of a shortage of nurses as well as of doctors, and waiting lists have lengthened. In some cases, patients have had to be moved to a remote facility or wait on a stretcher.

Increasingly, young medical graduates are shunning public hospitals and turning to private practice. In 1998 about 80 percent of medical graduates chose private practice, a huge percentage in a country where public hospitals have long been the backbone of health care.

Source: Alexander Dorozynski , "French Health Staff Strike Over Budget Cuts," British Medical Journal, February 5, 2000.


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