Virus reveals economic and racial divide in healthcare in France


El Badaoui hopes to “bring people back to the health care routes”.

“The sickest are those who are furthest away (from traditional society), because of the cultural or linguistic barrier”, as well as those who cannot afford additional insurance which facilitates access to a specialized treatment, El Badaoui told the AP.

France’s healthcare system is supposed to provide accessible medical treatment to everyone, but years of cost cutting left it stretched when the virus struck. The bureaucratic demands and co-payments of the system often frighten new immigrants or the very poor. And sometimes patients have to travel far to reach a specialist, which not everyone can afford.

As the virus spread across France, the overall death rate in Seine-Saint-Denis rose 129% in March and April from the previous year – the country’s biggest increase.

Marie Pastor, head of health for Seine-Saint-Denis, cited three main reasons: First, the department has a disproportionate rate of people with comorbidities – for example, it has the highest rate of diabetes in mainland France. Second, the shortage of general practitioners contributes to a “sense of estrangement from institutions” and discourages people from seeking treatment, she said. Finally, the high concentration of essential workers among the region’s population has made it more difficult for people to protect themselves and their families.

A study commissioned by the Paris regional health agency found the same reasons – but did not recommend specific measures to address the situation.

Seine-Saint Denis has an unemployment rate twice as high as the national average, a third of its population is immigrants and many more are descendants of immigrants. And in five years, it has lost 8% of its general practitioners, despite a growing population.

All over France, minorities face other medical challenges. Last October, the top French official in charge of the defense of citizens’ rights reported that it is 6.5 times more difficult for people with “African Muslim names” to obtain psychiatric appointments than for others. . Despite calls from the human rights watchdog government to investigate discrimination in healthcare, there is little research on the topic as race-based research runs counter to French doctrine of color blindness.


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