France: Focus on the most vulnerable people

  • Volunteer staff: 30
  • Volunteer helpers: 20 The work of MSF in France has considerably changed with the introduction of the new "Couverture Maladie Universelle" or "CMU" (universal medical coverage). This new legislation facilitates access to medical care for six million potential patients who live in precarious situations. Following the application of this law, the mission now focuses on the most vulnerable groups of the population. Positive results for the CMU In 1999, MSF worked on the CMU bill in order to underline the difficulties certain groups of people have in accessing health care, and to prompt a public debate on the orientation of the project — in particular denouncing the possible risk of the privatization of medical care for the poor. More than 25 propositions submitted by MSF were included in the new legislation, and MSF helped elaborate the texts regarding its application. Since it came into force on January 1st 2000, a data collection system has been set up in each "Solidarité-France" center to observe and monitor the application of the new legislation. For the moment the results have been positive. The most serious flaw is the lack of both information for health professionals and access to health care for certain vulnerable groups. MSF has been working in Marseilles for ten years, but given that the CMU now accelerates access to health care, it will reduce the medical side of this center's activities. In the region of Etang de Berre, a new mission will aid foreign families living in public housing. A social-medical center has opened in Marignane to facilitate access to medical care for children over six years old and young people in difficulty. Helping those in distress MSF continues to focus on more specific populations to improve their access to health care. The program to reduce risks for drug users has been strengthened in liaison with pharmacies which have accepted the installation of eight Distriboxes (sterile injection material distributors) in six districts of Paris. They have also agreed to sell 20,000 prevention kits. This approach to drug users and marginalized young people - set up in 1995 by mobile "street teams"- has considerably changed the waiting rooms in the Paris social-medical center, which now sees youths that live in ever more precarious circumstances. The program "Enfants-Jeunesse" in Lille now also has mobile "street teams." Almost 1,000 consultations and 700 social services appointments have been given at the center. The activities of the social-legal unit have been diversified as the team now assists asylum seekers in precarious situations. In July 1999 it intervened to help Kosovar refugees in France.