French healthcare regions “to cut hospital costs by a third in five years”

The story going the rounds in France is that the new healthcare regions chief task is to cut hospitals costs by a third in five years.The story going the rounds in France is that the new healthcare regions chief task is to cut hospitals costs by a third in five years.

One source said: “It has not been said publicly to the press, but this is the message I am getting from senior managers in the regions.” He added: “Officials are saying at conferences things like ‘we don’t want to kill the hospitals today’, the implication being that they might try and do so tomorrow.”

The process has already started with many small maternity wards facing closure. “Unless you are doing about one a day you will be closed,” he said. “This will extend to other types of hospital as well.”
Others expressed skepticism. Stephane Pichon at Your Care Consult said: “That may well be the target. France has to cut back. But whether it is achievable or not is another matter entirely. Local hospitals are often the biggest local employer and local politicians will fight hard to keep them.” He points out that the Minister of Health is about to spend €800m on a new public hospital in Caen (the existing one is infested with asbestos) – a move he describes as “madness”.
Our Analysis: By all accounts, it is very hard to talk to the bosses of the new healthcare regions. The bodies incorporate the work previously done by seven entities, the idea being to streamline French healthcare. Some 18 months after their formation, we are still not seeing the emergence of clear strategies.

Whether we will see truly radical change is questionable. But the word in the industry is that the regions do want to make big changes and are keen to cut costs. That should lead to a larger role fro the private sector. Whether serious cuts are achievable, as always in healthcare, is the big question.

Our sources expect the direction of travel to remain the same under the new government under premier Francois Fillon, set up on November 15, with Xavier Bertrand, former secretary-general of Sarkozy’s party Union for Popular Movement, as minister for labour, employment and health, replacing Eric Woerth. Everything hangs, however, on the presidential elections in May 2012. At the moment, right wing presidential incumbent Nicholas Sarkozy is well behind in the polls. But the socialists are split and, when it comes to the crunch, the French may well decide that France does need to cut costs. A silent majority favoured the recent pension reform.

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