Non-European doctors have become indispensable for France as the country’s healthcare system struggles to deal with the coronavirus crisis. But with foreign university degrees, they are not seen as equals to their French counterparts, and are often both paid and respected less.
Nesrine Mahfoudhi works in a Covid-19 unit in a French hospital. Like all of her coworkers, she has had to cope with the unprecedented spike in patients due to the coronavirus. But one thing sets her apart: she earned her medical degree outside the EU, meaning she does not have the same professional status as European doctors.
“We work more than our French co-workers, out of necessity. We’re paid less than them. My head of service trusts me. He’s considered me as a real doctor since I started working here. So I don’t see why the French government doesn’t consider us as doctors as well,” she says.
She is not alone. Thousands of foreign doctors practice in France, often in less secure jobs and with a lower pay, and many of them have become indispensable in dealing with the coronavirus crisis.
“Many emergency departments wouldn’t be able to function without doctors with foreign medical degrees. These doctors have done so much for France,” Mathias Wargon, head of the ER at the Delafontaine Hospital in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.
Many now hope that a healthcare law passed by lawmakers last year will make it easier for foreign doctors to receive the same professional recognition as their French colleagues.