Every one in three French towns is now classed as a ‘medical desert’ due to the scarcity of adequate healthcare provision. Caroline Pierron explains what this means for people living in rural France.
What is a medical desert?
When the healthcare providers and general practitioners are severely lacking compared to the rest of the country, that geographical zone is considered as a medical desert. Medical desertification is mainly hitting rural areas with an aging population – retiring doctors are hardly replaced, while young graduates tend to establish themselves in more dynamic zones, both in terms of economy and activities.
If general practitioners remain reasonably available, landing an appointment with a specialist, like a dentist, feels like an obstacle course. Too few and overwhelmed, they tend to scan calls and refuse to see new patients.
Is the problem getting worse?
A study showed that 1 out of 3 French municipalities was considered a medical desert in October 2018. In the time span of 10 years, the number of general practitioners dropped by 8 percent, and the trend continues every year. Almost eight percent of the French population lived in towns with a shortage of medics, back in 2015.