When the last general practitioner in the 1,150-inhabitant community of Ajain in central France retired a good two years ago and no successor was found, the small town did not give up. With signs at the entrance to the town and a video clip, Ajain fought for a new doctor – in vain. The shortage of rural doctors is also a big problem in France.
But then the young doctor Martial Jardel contacted the mayor’s office with an unusual plan – and suddenly Ajain has 40 doctors. The clever concept: for one week a doctor comes from somewhere in France and jumps in in the community.
“I was asked almost every day by people, have you found a doctor, in the end I’ll die before a new doctor comes to Ajain,” Mayor Guy Rouchon told France Bleu. “We did what we could do.” The municipality advertised in regional and national media, including with a small film. Doctor Jardel, who had just been traveling across France as a substitute doctor for six months in a mobile home, got in touch. With the help of the health authorities and the doctors’ collective “Médecins Solidaires”, which Jardel co-founded to implement his idea, his innovative concept was launched in the autumn.
New community to solve country doctor shortage
“It can be scary when a different doctor comes every week,” said doctor Jardel at the opening of the new practice. However, this is better than relying on a single doctor who settles down but then maybe leaves the place again. “As general practitioners, we want to offer a solution to a collective problem.” Even in a sparsely populated region, there are solutions if you look for them together. “We’re creating a collective movement, a new community.” that nothing works and nothing can be done, which is why he got involved in the project as a doctor and citizen.
“Médecins Solidaires” is now promoting the model to be copied in other municipalities in France and is looking for 300 dedicated doctors as a first step. It is hoped that 150 medical practices like the one in Ajain will be built within five years. In the village, the visiting doctors will be quartered in a country house, explained the councilor of the community, Thomas Marty. The new practice was set up in a rented container building – that is a quick, but perhaps not the permanent solution.
Shortage of rural doctors in France enormous problem
A different doctor for each visit – this is not a problem for the patients, since the unusual country doctor’s office has fixed office hours and patient files, said the mayor. “People are surprised that people are taking care of them and their little ailments, they are very satisfied.”
There is an enormous shortage of rural doctors in France, around 22 million people live in an underserved region, around six million do not have a permanent family doctor and the government has not yet found a panacea. In its search for a solution, the city of Nevers in central France recently made the headlines: Doctors are flown in by small plane from Dijon, 150 kilometers away, in order to alleviate the shortage of staff at the local clinic and to get more doctors into the clinic on a daily basis.
Germany is trying to solve the country doctor shortage with grants
In Germany, too, there is a lack of country doctors in many places. Various incentives are being used in the federal states to attract more medical professionals. This can range from scholarships for prospective country doctors to financial injections for setting up practices and fee subsidies for doctors in underserved regions.
In Ajain, meanwhile, after the success with the doctor’s office, the mayor has immediately tackled another project to keep his rural community alive – the “Biblioposte”. Since the local post office was increasingly reducing its opening hours, he set up a post office and library with financial help from the town hall – these did not exist in the village before.