They denounce “a manifest refusal of the public authorities to hear their concerns”. The biologists announced this Wednesday, October 26 that they will stop feeding the national file of Covid screening tests (SI-DEP) from Thursday and this “until further notice”. This is what they indicated in a press release published by the Alliance of Medical Biology (ABM), which brings together all the players in French medical biology, union representatives as laboratory networks.
Concretely, from this Thursday, if patients will continue to receive their results, there will however no longer be any monitoring of the Covid-19 epidemic, warns the ABM. The health authorities will no longer know the number of PCR tests carried out and the positivity rate of these tests. “This shows that our role in the epidemic is important, through screening and sequencing”, observes with L’Express Alain Le Meur, spokesman for the Alliance of medical biology.
But this decision “has a significant financial cost for medical biologists”, recalls the ABM in the press release. Laboratories will no longer be reimbursed for their actions by health insurance. The shortfall is estimated at 14 million euros per week. “We are pursuing our public health mission, without penalizing patients and free of charge, but without ensuring our major role in monitoring the epidemic”, specifies the ABM.
The reason for the anger of biologists? A “blind planing on current biology expenses which is imposed on the profession” in the Social Security budget, resulting in 250 million euros in savings per year until 2026. “It would be unthinkable to nail in the pillory, by imposing on it 20% of the total savings requested, an exemplary profession which has enabled Social Security to save 5.2 billion euros over the past nine years and represents barely 2% of total health expenditure “, regrets the Alliance of medical biology. “We have been exemplary since the arrival of Covid-19. We have been good students, we were asked to carry out the tests”, underlines Alain Le Meur.
The examination of the social security financing bill (PLFSS) by the National Assembly resumed on the “expenditure” section after the interruption by the use of 49.3 on the “revenue” section. It is in this text that article 27 appears. The ABM regrets that this disputed article “still appears in its initial wording”. “The government has even decided to retain the amendment tabled by MP Stéphanie Rist which requires us to maintain our territorial network even though we will not be able to do so if our means decrease so drastically”, alerts the ABM.
“Wanting medical biology at a discount has consequences for the efficiency of the health system”, notes the ABM. According to this body, the SI-DEP, “which has become so central in the fight against Covid-19, could never have been set up if the laboratories had not provided human and financial resources to help the authorities to design at the height of the crisis”. Alain Le Meur warns about the consequences of this article 27 of the PLFSS for the analysis laboratories: “We will not be able to survive such significant drops. The risk is the closure of certain sites, for example laboratories located in villages or small towns.”
The ABM points the finger at “a lack of dialogue with the government” and regrets that “alerts at the highest level” and “several warnings” did not allow the blockages to be lifted. Several meetings have been organised, including one last week, between the representatives of the Alliance for Medical Biology and the offices of the Minister of Public Accounts Gabriel Attal, the Minister of Health François Braun, the Minister Delegate in charge of Territorial Organization and Health Professions Agnès Firmin-Le Bodo, also in the presence of advisers in charge of health matters at the Elysée and Matignon.
“We assume to ask for efforts from biology laboratories”, for his part repeated Gabriel Attal, Tuesday in the Senate, justifying the measure by “an already high profitability before the health crisis” and further increased by an increase of more than 7 billion “of turnover linked to tests” for two years.
The biologists have however proposed to limit the puncture to the year 2023 alone, for the profits of the Covid-19. “We are fully in favor of an exceptional contribution of 250 million euros which would be levied for the year 2023 and not each year until 2026. This contribution is legitimate because this health crisis has been a disaster. We are united and responsible,” says Alain Le Meur.
The ABM spokesman warns that all options are on the table for the continuation of the movement, including a strike. “We are for dialogue but we will be able to remain firm and we will take our responsibilities. In any case, we have no other possibilities because it is a fight for our survival”, he indicates.