Healthcare

5,758 hospital beds closed in France in 2020 amid health crisis

More than 5,700 hospital beds and 25 establishments (hospitals and clinics) were closed in 2020, according to the French Ministry of Health.
More than 5,700 hospital beds and 25 establishments (hospitals and clinics) were closed in 2020, according to the French Ministry of Health. © AFP/Suliane Favennec

The number of hospital bed closures continued to rise in France in 2020 and was amplified by the Covid-19 health crisis, according to a Ministry of Health report published on Wednesday.

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France now has less than 3,000 hospitals and clinics. 25 establishments closed last year, due to reorganisation and restructuring, according to a study released by the Ministry of Health (Drees) on Wednesday.

The report also points out that 27,000 beds were closed over the last seven years, a drop of 6.5 percent. But in 2020, the drop was slightly bigger than in previous years with 5,758 hospital beds closed.

The epidemic is one of the reasons: many double rooms were transformed into single rooms to limit the Covid outbreak, as well as massive deprogramming to reassign nursing staff to intensive care units.

The number of intensive care beds rose by 14.5 percent, around 6,200 at the end of 2020. 

"Intensive care beds are increasing but are temporary. For the time being, these beds have to be kept open in case there's a new surge in the epidemic," Carine Milcent, a researcher with CNRS, told RFI on Wednesday.

'Transitional care'

The report also mentions that hospitalisation at home jumped by almost 11% in 2020 instead of 6% during 2019.

"You have to look at these figures through the lens of a movement that is taking place in all developed countries, called transitional care, whereby the hospital is no longer really the place where you stay several days and come out totally cured," says Milcent.

"Hospitals have to innovate and machines become obsolete more quickly and are increasingly expensive, so there’s a cost […] but today we are able to provide e-care, outside the hospital," she adds.

Health unions

In June, a French health union accused the government of removing more than 1,800 hospital beds in the first few months of 2021, when France was battling a third wave of coronavirus infections.

"We are asking for the political approach to care and health be reversed, that we break with the essentially financial and economic approach that has prevailed until now, to look at the needs of the population," said FO-Santé union chief Yves Veyrier.

"We cannot separate the quality of care and the reception of patients from the conditions in which we allow public service staff to work, particularly in hospitals," he added.

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