Medical deserts: more than 6,000 general practitioners are missing in rural areas



There is a shortage of more than 6,000 general practitioners in rural living areas compared to “desirable goal” of one practitioner per 1,000 inhabitants, according to a new study unveiled Friday, September 30 by the Association of Rural Mayors of France.

Since 2020, the AMRF has regularly published studies by Emmanuel Vigneron, university professor in Montpellier and specialist in the territorial approach to health, to illustrate the lack of access to care in rural areas. The latest takes the example of the Dordogne, in the South-West, where the AMRF holds its annual congress, from Friday to Sunday in Eymet.

In this department of approximately 400,000 inhabitants where 305 general practitioners are based, according to data from the shared directory of health professionals, 122 are missing to reach, out of all 21 living areas, the target rate of a practitioner. per 1,000 inhabitants, the national average currently being 0.83. In total in France, “if 31% of urban living areas achieve this objective of one per thousand, only 18% of rural areas are sufficiently endowed”says the AMRF.

Widening gaps in life expectancy

Another data put forward: the geographical density of doctors. In rural living areas, a general practitioner covers an average of 30 km², compared to 5 km² in urban living areas. “The reality of accessibility to medical presence is therefore six times lower in rural areas than in towns”summarizes the association for which two out of three rural living areas in the country lack general practitioners compared to the national average.

She also observes significant differences in specialized medicine by comparing the Bouches-du-Rhône, a department which, according to her, presents a “surplus” of 1,862 practitioners, in the Dordogne, which shows a shortage of 194.

The AMRF points out that the studies it has published since 2020 also make the “alarming finding”in rural areas, from an aggravation of the gaps in life expectancy, a lower consumption of hospital care and the aging of health professionals. “The recent health crisis has highlighted the importance of proximity in the organization of the health service. Health democracy must be refounded on a real contradictory debate in order to offer new solutions to the inhabitants of the rural world.believes the association.

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