“The regional health agencies have a real nuisance power”: the rant of an LREM MP

For ten years, as deputy mayor then mayor of Ludon-Médoc (Gironde), and as deputy of a territory that is both urban, with the metropolis of Bordeaux, and very landlocked with the peninsula of Médoc, Benoît Simian says he has witnessed serious dysfunctions on the part of the Regional Health Agencies (ARS). Faced with the coronavirus crisis, the elected LREM today decides to denounce them and recommends putting them under the supervision of the State.

In the midst of a health crisis, you are ranting against the regional health agencies. Why ?

BENOîT SIMIAN. We are several parliamentarians from all political parties to sound the alarm. Me, like others, we were moved by the major dysfunctions of ARS even before the outbreak of the epidemic. But there, the ARS are obviously not only unsuitable for the health emergency, but, in addition, they have a real power of nuisance.

Concretely, what do you blame them for?

Agencies have become technostructures that behave like a state within a state. They show a complete lack of transparency. It is easier today for a mayor or an MP to reach a minister than a director of the Regional Health Agency. Worst. This lack of proximity and dissemination of information has very negative consequences on the means that mayors, elected officials but also prefects and sub-prefects – who also complain but will never make it known publicly – could implement to resolve the crisis.

On what points is this behavior most harmful?

First, the identification and location of the Covid-19 cases. It is understandable that the ARS do not make them known to the general public, but they demonstrate an unacceptable opacity, and once again harmful, vis-à-vis elected officials and state services. If the latter were able to hold such information more quickly, they would be in a better position to better enforce confinement and thus limit the epidemic. There is also the problem of masks.

Are they responsible for the lack of stock?

No. But the ARS have made the organization of distribution circuits for existing masks their reserved domain. However, they are completely failing. When you claim to be the great organizer in matters of health crisis, you proceed to systematic requisitions in the companies that had these masks in stock in order to be able to make them available to the most fragile. They did not.

Do you think they should be deleted?

In times of health emergency like the one we are going through, I recommend putting them under the supervision of State services. I can tell you that a large number of prefects also suggest it. After the crisis, it is a fundamental reform that I demand. I am a “Girondin” therefore very attached to local authorities. I remain in favor of this decentralization in economic matters. But I believe more than ever that it is necessary to recentralize “social” issues such as childcare, in the name of the efficiency and equality of all French people. With the State as guarantor.

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