In the office with bright blue walls, housed in the hospital center of this small rural town, Evelyne Debeaumont, 70, has an appointment with Dr Didier Fontaneau, who is almost the same age.

It has been two years since the septuagenarian and her 75-year-old husband no longer have a doctor. Their last retired without finding a successor. So these consultations with retirees, “it’s a perfect solution”, she said, hoping however to see one day “new doctors in the sector”.

Since mid-May, five doctors – four retirees and one in their thirties – each provide an afternoon consultation from Monday to Friday, paid by the hospital.

A way for them to continue to help patients without a solution, but also to escape the form of withdrawal that retirement can represent.

This system is part of the dynamic initiated by the vaccination campaign against Covid-19, which has already mobilized retired doctors.

“The objective is not to become attending physicians, referents, but to respond to the mother whose kid is hot and who spends the morning on the phone to find an appointment”, explains Serge Gunst, the director of the ‘hospital.

– Patient without recourse –

Beyond the “troubleshooting” of patients, the consultation also aims to relieve general practitioners in the sector and avoid an embolism of the emergencies of Maubeuge, “eternally saturated”, he continues.

In this rural area, the number of doctors continues to decrease and those who retire often leave their patients without recourse.

“It is estimated that 20% of people in the territory no longer have a attending physician”, explains Nicolas Dosen, chairman of the supervisory board of the hospital and the community of communes of Coeur de l’Avesnois (approximately 30,000 inhabitants).

“In the sector, the ratio is 0.7 doctors for 1,000 patients, which is unmanageable if the doctors do not start at 7 a.m. and finish at 10 p.m.”, adds Serge Gunst.

The fight against this medical desertification constitutes an “emergency” for the new Minister of Health, François Braun, in a French health system which he considers “out of breath”.

Retired for 6 years from his activity as a liberal general practitioner, Dr. Christian Castel, 72, is one of those who have chosen to continue their activity: not only does he provide an afternoon of consultation, but he also works part-time in internal medicine at the hospital.

– Emergency solution –

“A GP usually sees 30 patients a day, but in the area some go up to 60,” says the practitioner, looking childish under his gray hair.

In patients who fail to be followed regularly, some end up “dropping the case”, while “complications are added quietly”, he is alarmed.

He remembers in particular “a diabetic gentleman who had not consulted a doctor for five years”.

With about fifteen patients on average per afternoon, of all ages, the consultation is a welcome patch. But this emergency solution is likely to become permanent.

“We said to ourselves at the start that this consultation would be used to solve specific problems and we realize that we have to take care of patients in the medium term, who are not going to find a treating doctor and that we are not going to not release into the wild,” explains Dr Castel.

The next step could see the establishment of a multi-professional health center, a solution touted by the public authorities.

“Salaried city medicine is the future for young doctors, who do not necessarily want to settle,” wants to believe Mr. Dosen.