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Economy

French government fights doctor shortage in rural areas

media French Health Minister Marisol Touraine Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

French Health Minister Marisol Touraine says the government will pay young doctors more to go and work in rural areas, where the shortage of doctors has reached crisis point.

In the worst hit area, Picardy in northern France, there is only one doctor for nearly 500 people.

While the majority of medical students say they want to become general practitioners when they begin their studies, by the end most go and work in hospitals.

Touraine announced a 12-point plan on Thursday.

“It's difficult for young doctors to set up a practise and settle in a new area, so we're offering financial support for the first two years,” she said at the launch. “They'll also have a regional supervisor they can turn to, a familiar face, with a phone number."

The plan promises a guaranteed annual revenue of 55,000 euros for 200 newly qualified doctors if they set up their practises in areas where there are shortages.

Other measures will encourage doctors to work in teams so that opening hours can be longer and appointments can be quicker.

“Young doctors say themselves they want to work in teams, Touraine said. “So the time when there was one doctor per village is behind us. What is needed now is one team per area.”

Declining services and unemployment in rural and semi-rural regions became an issue during this year's presidential election with a rise in votes for the far right in some neglected areas.

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