Repuy, France — On a sunny but chilly June morning, Dr. Marshall Jardel took his black bike out of his camper van, put on his helmet and started the engine. On his last day on the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy, he was ready to visit the patient along the English Channel.
Michelle Picott, 92, standing at the front door in blue slippers, was impatiently waiting.
“When was the last time you had a blood test?” Dr. Jadel asked aloud after arriving at the one-story building, Mr. Picotte, a former airline employee with deafness. “I don’t know,” Picotte replied, looking at the young doctor with open eyes. “I tell you, it’s hell to get old.”
In March, new graduate Dr. Jamberlan, 30, decided to go on a five-month “Tour de France” trip. But unlike top-notch cycling races, his journey took him to what the French call the “medical desert,” an area suffering from a serious shortage of doctors. So Dr. Jadel offers an attractive deal to overworked doctors. He exchanges them for two weeks while they go on vacation.
Over the past few months, Dr. Jadel wants to travel over 2,800 miles in a camper van, share experiences on the website, share with more than 1,500 followers on Instagram, and change the minds of young doctors who are reluctant to settle. is. A region full of patients but lacking the charm of a big city.
Despite France’s world-renowned health care system, a recent study by Mutualité Française, a leading professional union of health insurance companies, shows that there are about 7 million people in areas where doctors are restricted. Lives in. To make matters worse, in France, where the average age of doctors is now 49, according to the government, authorities are preparing for a major wave of retirement over the next decade.
According to a recent report by the French Senate, Normandy is one of the areas most hit by the shortage of doctors, especially on the Cotentin Peninsula, where 40% of practitioners are already over 60 years old.
“We must act swiftly,” said David Marguerite, president of the authorities overseeing the Cotentin. “The area is unattractive in the long run without the possibility of seeking treatment.”
In the sixth phase of the medical road trip, after stopping in central, eastern and northern France, Dr. Jardel said the main street was a stone cottage and a jumble of modern businesses such as bakeries, crepes and beauty salons.
“Again, I wanted him to see that he had optimal working and living conditions,” said Dr. Bansard. “It stinks not because we are in the countryside!”
More than 30 people, including midwives and psychologists, work in the health center where Dr. Bansard is working. With the exception of the Cotentin Peninsula, which is about 60 miles from Omaha Beach, it is affected by a shortage of specialists such as dentists. Only 33 for a population of 100,000. Repu’s doctors already have 1,800 to 2,200 patients each, but the national average is about 900, making it “impossible” for newcomers to find an attending physician.
“The waiting time is terrible,” said one patient, Didier Duval, 62. Please choose from several. “
After a morning home visit and consultation, Dr. Jadel took his bike to a local nursing home. Eight minutes by car along the Normandy coast, he met a nurse, Natacha Carlat, who took him to two elderly patients. The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the staffing problem, she said.
“We never stop,” Carrat said. “Like us, they are chasing time, so many doctors come and go.”
To solve the shortage of doctors in certain areas, the French government last year attempted to increase supply by removing the upper limit on the number of medical students. However, the gap between metropolitan areas and rural areas is widening. The Senate reports on the medical desert show that the Paris and French Rivieras have about 400 general practitioners and specialists per 100,000 population, with a national average of about 340.
Local governments are trying to attract young doctors to poorly serviced areas with incentives such as covering tuition fees for new graduate physiotherapists.
“It’s a fascinating attack,” said Cotentin official Marguerite. “We hope they are crazy.”
To some, the charm seemed to work.
Axel Guerin, a 25-year-old doctor trained at Caen-Norman University, who works at Repuy’s Health Center, said he plans to stay in the area after a six-month stay.
“I like spirituality, country life and living environment,” he said, considering the panoramic seaside views from his office. Doctors and internships sometimes enjoy lunchtime surf sessions, Dr. Bansard said.
But Dr. Jadel, a circuit doctor, wasn’t beaten two weeks later when he gave a farewell gift from Dr. Bansard, a beer from a local brewery.
“Don’t forget to come back and bring your friends anytime!” Dr. Bansard said, waving goodbye.
“I’m filming country life, but I won’t be able to settle here for the next 30 years,” admitted Dr. Jadel.
He loaded his bike into his camper van and passed Mont Saint Michel, the monastery on Norman Island that controls the area, to the next stage of his trip to Brittany.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Dr. Jadel studied rigorous medicine for nine years. But after graduating, he wanted to take a “breath of fresh air” by discovering the medical practice of the French countryside and its small towns in the midst of a pandemic.
In Brittany, Dr. Jardel succeeded Dr. Marion Molie, 33, the only doctor in Plumeur Gautier.
Born in northeastern France, Dr. Molly realized her dream by buying a stone house in this small town and living with her husband and two children. The local government desperately paid the doctor for a year to Dr. Molly’s secretary, covering her office rent of about $ 600 for the first few months.
But after working there from September, she felt overwhelmed.
“Previously there were eight doctors,” said Dr. Molly, who works in a care home founded by two doctors in 2014. In less than a year, they quit to open an office in a larger town.
“Now, for the 8,000 inhabitants of the peninsula, we are only two,” she said.
Dr. Molie, who is overloaded with 1,800 patients she has already treated, says she has not been able to accept new patients since March. The situation is “more and more worrisome,” she added, especially now that doctors in the neighboring town are about to retire.
After visiting the nursing home and collecting the keys, Dr. Jadel looked for a place to park his camper before sunset. Along the landscape of Brittany’s misty coast, he settled next to an old man fishing.
Dr. Jadel took in the salty sea breeze and watched the waves. He is already thinking of a new project. It is to create an organization that encourages other young doctors to discover poorly serviced areas.
And will he embark on another Tour de France?
“It’s not impossible,” he said. “I saw 10 of the 101 divisions in France. There are still 91 left.”