IN A cluttered suburban apartment east of Paris, health technician Vincent Mallet adjusts a plastic tube delivering oxygen to an elderly man’s diseased lungs. Sitting at the dining room table, Mallet tests the equipment, while the patient and his wife recount the daily struggles of living with chronic illness.In the past, the couple would have made frequent visits to a nearby hospital. With Mallet now spending about an hour a week calibrating a bedside machine and writing a report for the man’s doctor as part of his rounds in the town of Fontenay-sous-Bois, those visits have become rare.Mallet is not a nurse or physician. He is an employee of Air Liquide, a French company better known for supplying gases to industrial sites, such as refineries. The visit to the patient, paid for by France’s state-funded medical system, is part of Air Liquide’s expanding health-care operations.As factory demand softens and an oil slump hurts new industrial projects, big gas suppliers, such as Air Liq...

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