President Emmanuel Macron of France on Tuesday promised extra money and more doctors in rural areas to ease pressure on hospitals in cities.
He said that the gesture was to ease pressures which were creaking under the weight of budget constraints and closures of clinics outside towns and cities.
“Spending on healthcare will increase by 2.5 per cent in 2019, higher than the initial 2.3 per cent target and amounting to an additional $470 million in a near 200 billion euro budget.
“Without changes, the hospital system will collapse. We need to rethink how we organise healthcare for the next 50 years,’’ Macron said in a speech at the Elysee Palace.
France’s public healthcare system is considered one of the world’s best, but an ageing population and financial constraints have put it under strain.
Patients increasingly complain of overcrowded emergency rooms and in rural areas, travel times to the nearest clinic, while nurses frequently bemoan a shortage of beds and staff shortages.
Macron’s announcement came days after he unveiled a separate 8 billion euro plan to fight poverty in France, where some 8.8 million people live below the poverty threshold.
Long in the planning, Macron hoped his social reforms would help counter criticism from left-wingers that he was a president of the rich and help turnaround a sharp fall in popularity.
Macron also promised the recruitment of 4,000 medical assistants to handle paperwork and free-up doctors in urban areas to treat patients.