THE INTERVIEW Arnaud Longuet: “In the Gard, the strike rate in private workshops is close to 100%”

Maybe you found the door closed on the way to your test lab earlier in the week? In fact, an unprecedented strike by liberal biologists began on Monday, which is expected to last at least three days. This action follows the government’s announcement at the end of September, as part of the social security budget for 2023, to save €250 million in the life sciences sector. Arnaud Longuet, medical biologist, general director of the Inovie Labosud laboratory and secretary of biology of the URPS (Regional Union of Health Professionals) in Occitania, tells us more about the rage of the profession.

Objectif Gard: Three days of renewable strike have been decreed in private workshops. How come ?

Arnaud Longuet: The Government, through the prism of the National Health Insurance Fund (CNAM), foresees a project of 250 million euros. It will extend over time, which would give 1 billion euros less on the budget allocated to biology procedures until 2026. In reality, they want to lower the price of the procedures, set by the CNAM.

Why so many savings?

They want to take advantage of a circumstance which is the covid episode. It is true that it has generated a much higher turnover for the laboratories than in other years. But they want to impose reductions over time that are permanent and therefore structural in nature. The testing policy was designated by the state which determined the circumstances of all-out testing. The profession had also warned of the inherent financial risks. The testing policy went far beyond public health concerns, including travel screening. The reimbursement price for the tests was also set by the state, not by us.

So do biologists today feel like they responded during the crisis and are now suffering?

We’re mad because we were there, we invested, we retooled, we hired, we increased our workforce by more than 10%. We bought equipment, which was economically difficult at a time when there were tensions over supplies and reagents. Private laboratories have taken 90% of the policy indicated by the state. There, we are asked to pay for the policy that we have applied for and have not even started. We have also tried to warn of perverse effects along the way. Hence this unique reaction in the last 30 years.

The workshop on rue Vincent in Marguerittes (Photo: CM)

It’s true that it’s a profession that you never see on strike…

Yes, we have the feeling that we are good students because overall we think we have saved the State, the Social Security, more than 5 billion euros over the next 10 years. If we take the figures between 2013 and 2022, the volume of biology procedures has increased by more than 30% yet the dedicated budget has increased by only 2.8%.

Is the strike movement very popular?

In the Gard the strike rate in private workshops is close to 100%. That’s more than nationwide where we’re at 95%. It means something.

What do you expect from this strike?

The profession is fully in agreement to participate in the effort. We are not above ground. We are ready to participate punctually due to economic circumstances such as covid. But we don’t want the effort to be lasting. The crux of the problem is there. We agree on what the State is asking, but only on the current year. Extending the effort over time outside of covid is not sustainable for us. We therefore ask for a firm commitment from the State, through the CNAM, not to enroll in the long term. We agree on an exceptional contribution of 250 million euros but no more.

What would be the consequences for laboratories?

This plane hit would penalize us in terms of investment policy but also site management, especially in remote areas, medical deserts. In the end, it will be the patients who pay the price. In Gard, there are many rural areas, particularly in the north of the department, on the borders of Lozère or Ardèche, which are already medical deserts. It is obvious that the Gard would not escape the consequences.

There have already been several less spectacular actions before this strike, is this your last card?

Before going on strike, we interrupted the transmission of epidemiological data relating to covid for a few days. Discussions started to be opened but nothing progressed. Then we continue the actions. We regret this to the patients. We are not used to this in the profession. But at some point you can’t…

Despite the strike, are emergency direct debits guaranteed?

There are in fact some exceptions, such as controls who can’t wait to start chemotherapy treatments, dialysis treatments, extreme emergencies after the dialogue between the biologist and the clinician. We also continue to provide urgent check-ups for partner private healthcare facilities. Anything that is preoperative assessment as part of planned interventions is not assumed.

Interview by Marie Meunier

Maria Meunier

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