French doctors protest health care changes

23rd January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 22 (AFP) - Thousands of angry French general medical practitioners closed their surgeries Saturday and rallied here in protest against health care changes they say will devalue their skills.

PARIS, Jan 22 (AFP) - Thousands of angry French general medical practitioners closed their surgeries Saturday and rallied here in protest against health care changes they say will devalue their skills.

The demonstrators oppose new regulations under which patients must choose their own "attending physician," a general practitioner, whom they must consult before they are allowed to see a specialist.

"I'm not going to be the guy on the door handing out tickets for a visit to a specialist," said one doctor, Christian Lehmann, who said he had collected 10,000 signatures for a petition.

The government's hoped-for savings through the reforms would not happen and "we'll be treated like scapegoats when they fail," said Pierre Costes, head of the professional association organising the protest.

"Our speciality, which is general medicine, is not being properly acknowledged and valued for what it is," he said, heading a march on the health ministry.

The general practitioners say the reforms allegedly giving them a pivotal role do not give them proper resources to do so, and will only end in increasing specialists' fees.

The demonstrators were protesting against an accord between three other medical professional associations and the public health insurance authorities whereby each insured person above the age of 16 must, from July 1 on, choose his or her own "attending physician," whom the patient must consult before seeing a specialist.

According to an opinion poll whose results are disputed by the signatories, 78 percent of doctors in private practice are against the accord.

Worse still, 76 percent of general practitioners said they favoured boycotting the idea of the attending physician.

The general practitioners' body MG-France led by Costes said about 80 percent of general practitioners' surgeries were closed Saturday.

But another association, CSMF, disputed this, saying things had been as normal on a Saturday. "There has not been a single additional surgery closed compared to any ordinary Saturday," said chairman Michel Chassang.

Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy is to receive an MG-France delegation on Wednesday.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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