Foreign Doctors in France Fear Far-Right Surge Amid Healthcare Crisis


PARIS, July 5 (Reuters) – Dr. Tasnime Labiedh, a Tunisian microbiologist working in southern France, is contemplating a move to Switzerland after the far-right National Rally (RN) clinched 41% of the vote in the region during France’s recent election.

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“Already we are struggling here, but if (Jordan) Bardella becomes prime minister, it will be dire. They exploit fear of outsiders,” said Labiedh, 33, who relocated to France in 2021 for her medical internship.

The rise of the RN has prompted concern among doctors of foreign origin, who feel increasingly unwelcome and uncertain about their future in France’s healthcare system.

Polls indicate that while the RN may secure a significant number of parliamentary seats, it is unlikely to gain an outright majority.

Of the 11 North African doctors interviewed by Reuters, six are contemplating leaving France due to the current political climate. One doctor has already emigrated to Canada within the past month.

With only 3.17 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants, France faces one of the severest doctor shortages among OECD countries, exacerbating healthcare challenges in regions like Labiedh’s town, which has only 1.73 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants.

“We’re living in tremendous hypocrisy. The far-right gains traction by scapegoating immigrants, yet our social and economic systems would grind to a halt without migrant contributions,” said Hicham Benaissa, a sociologist with France’s CNRS.

Bardella, a potential RN prime ministerial candidate, recently reassured foreign nationals working in France, emphasizing their contributions to society. However, RN leader Marine Le Pen has advocated restricting employment opportunities for non-EU trained doctors, proposing preferential treatment for French applicants.

In 2023, the number of doctors trained outside the EU working in France rose to 29,238, comprising about 7% of the total workforce, with over half hailing from North Africa.

Foreign doctors face significant hurdles to practice in France, including prolonged registration processes and lower initial pay compared to their French counterparts.

Widad Abdi, representing doctors qualified outside the EU, criticized politicians for neglecting systemic issues within the healthcare sector, citing poor working conditions, long hours, increased patient loads, and declining doctor numbers as key factors driving doctors away.

The RN’s electoral success correlates strongly with regions experiencing limited healthcare access, known as “medical deserts.” Such areas, where both foreign and immigrant-origin French doctors are crucial, have seen heightened support for the RN’s pledges to improve healthcare infrastructure.

In towns where the RN secured top positions, over a quarter of residents lack access to local doctors, compared to 13% in areas favoring President Emmanuel Macron’s party and 8% in left-wing alliance strongholds.

Dr. Lydia Boumaarafi, a French doctor of Algerian descent specializing in addiction medicine, recently relocated to Canada, citing the RN’s rising influence and Canada’s multicultural approach as contributing factors.

“The current political climate, exacerbated by the RN’s electoral gains, pushed me to make this decision,” Boumaarafi said, reflecting broader concerns among foreign medical professionals in France.

By Naija247news
By Naija247news
Naija247news is an investigative news platform that tracks news on Nigerian Economy, Business, Politics, Financial and Africa and Global Economy.

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