The head of hospitals in Paris has raised the question of whether Covid patients who have refused to be vaccinated should be charged for emergency treatment if they become seriously ill with the virus.
Martin Hirsch said the door to hospital treatment was open to all people but questioned whether this had to go hand in hand with “responsibility, allowing everyone to benefit,” in what he said was a “delicate debate”.
“When a free prevention tool is available, can be used, is recognised as something useful by the scientific community, and you refuse it, do you do so without suffering any consequences? Or do we say we will treat you, but there is no reason why you should have no consequences when there will be for other patients who are having difficulty getting treatment and can do nothing about it,” Hirsch told the television programme C à vous.
His comments have provoked outrage and calls for his resignation, including from a number of candidates in the April presidential election.
The Socialist party’s Anne Hidalgo said making the vaccine-hesitant pay for treatment was not the answer. “We have a strategy and we have to keep on educating people,” she said. Danièle Obono of the hard-left La France Insoumise (LFI), was among those calling for Hirsch to resign, saying vaccinated and unvaccinated people had each contributed financially to pay for the health system. Julien Aubert, an MP for the mainstream-right Les Républicains, accused Hirsch of “mixing politics with administrative functions”.
About 30,000 people are being treated for Covid in hospitals in France. Non-vaccinated Covid patients are reported to represent 70% of patients in intensive care in Paris and Bordeaux and more than 90% in Marseille and Nice, according to doctors. One day in intensive care is estimated to cost the French taxpayer about €4,628 (£3,850), while a vaccine dose costs the state €20 (£16.60).
Christopher Prudhomme, of the ambulance service in the Paris banlieue, said Hirsch’s comments were scandalous. “This isn’t his job. Looking for a scapegoat is catastrophic. If we enter the spiral of patient selection, are we to make smokers pay for the lung cancer treatment or punish the obese because they eat too much?”