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This medical centre in France has 5,000 patients but no doctors

Former doctor, Isabelle Willemain, leaves her medical practice at the Bourtzwiller medical centre
Former doctor, Isabelle Willemain, leaves her medical practice at the Bourtzwiller medical centre Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By Euronews with AFP
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A medical centre in Eastern France was faced with a desperate situation when its last three doctors retired, leaving thousands of patients without adequate access to health care.


In Southern France, around 5,000 patients have been left without health care after three doctors in a medical centre in Mulhouse retired. 

Since their departure on 1 July, the only remaining healthcare workers at the centre in the working-class district of Bourtzwiller have been nurses and physiotherapists. 

The fruitless search for the doctors' successors began several years ago. "We've never managed to find anyone to work with us," Isabelle Willemain, who practised for 36 years in Bourtzwiller, said. 

There are many reasons for this. Chief among them is that Mulhouse is not an attractive place for young people to live, according to Mehdi Kacem, a 34-year-old general practitioner who has chosen to set up in another part of the conurbation.

He added that young doctors are "going to prioritise family life."  Kacem's father was also a doctor. And he says he was "completely absorbed by the hospital".

'It's frightening

Since the three doctors retired, their patients have turned to SOS Médecins, emergency services or unscheduled care centres. 

All of those options are not substitutes for regular follow-up by a doctor, according to Frédéric Tryniszewski, the president of SOS Médecins Mulhouse.

Now alone on the front line, the nurses are trying to cope as best they can. "For the moment, we're holding our own", said Céline Bohrer, a 43-year-old nurse. 

Before leaving, the three doctors "wrote 12-month prescriptions" for patients suffering from chronic pathologies, explained Willemain. 

In the meantime, 79-year-old Jacqueline Schreiber, who lives next to the Bourtzwiller medical centre, is worried. 

"It's frightening [...] what's going to happen to us if there are no more doctors," she said. 

"I'm still managing on my own. But there are lots of people who are bedridden and can't do anything. They absolutely need a doctor."

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