Pressure mounting on France's hospitals as coronavirus shows no signs of abating

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-21 03:18:42|Editor: huaxia

A man rides a bike under a bridge in Paris, France, March 19, 2020. (Photo by Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua)

The past week, France saw rapid increase in both the confirmed cases and deaths from the virus. The country reported 108 new coronavirus deaths on Thursday, its biggest increase in a single day.

PARIS, March 20 (Xinhua) -- France reported 108 new coronavirus deaths on Thursday, its biggest increase in a single day, fueling concerns notably over the hospitals' ability to cope with the pandemic.

"We are in a race against time so as not to saturate hospitals, to allow scientists to work on a remedy and a vaccine," Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Friday.

"We do our utmost to free up intensive care spaces, even where the virus is not yet circulating. We have assessed the future need for beds following the epidemic's evolution in order to organize the transfer of patients to the less strained areas," Veran told Le Figaro newspaper.

The minister said that 1,200 respirators had been ordered to equip additional beds.

A man wearing a mask takes the metro in Paris, France, March 19, 2020. (Photo by Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua)

STRAINED HOSPITALS

The past week, France saw rapid increase in both the confirmed cases and deaths from the virus. The country's General Director of Health Jerome Salomon warned that "infection cases double every four days," warning of an imminent lack of intensive care facilities.

"We are in the red, the situation is extremely tense," said Damien Barraud, a doctor in the resuscitation unit in Metz, eastern France. "We are currently receiving two to three patients a day. If we consider that the containment measures will bear fruit in two weeks, we are sure that this number will continue to increase in the coming days."

"What has happened in Italy and what is likely to happen here is to choose not to resuscitate someone so that another one would have more chance to survive by taking advantage of intensive care. It's a disaster medicine. It's unprecedented in France," he told le Figaro.

People wearing masks are seen at the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris, France, March 19, 2020. (Photo by Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua)

Ile-de-France, the heavily populated and most important economic hub around the capital Paris, is the worst-hit region with 3,384 cases.

The situation is likely to deteriorate further next week when an influx of new patients is expected to flood the region's hospitals, said Professor Yazdan Yazdanpanah, head of the infectious and tropical diseases department at Bichat Hospital in Paris.

"There are people who work hard, with great courage, to try to run hospitals. But we are going to go through complicated moments next week," Yazdanpanah told Europe 1 radio.

According to local health authorities, there are 7,000 intensive care beds in France's hospitals, of which 2,000 are still available.

A man wearing a mask is seen at the Montparnasse train station in Paris, France, March 19, 2020. (Photo by Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua)

AP-HP, the university hospital group operating in Paris and its surroundings, said that up to 4,000 additional resuscitation beds are needed if the measures to mitigate the epidemic impact and confinement prove unable to relieve stress in the saturated health facilities.

In Grand-Est near the German border, the situation is "dramatic," warned Professor Eric Maury, president of the Resuscitation Society.

"All the resuscitation beds are occupied. There is a massive influx of patients in very serious condition every day who must be placed on an artificial ventilator, and there are no more places available," he said.

SHORTAGE OF PROTECTIVE GEAR

For several weeks, a dire shortage of face masks, gloves and other basic equipment has fueled anger among frontline medical staff. Workers in contact with the public, especially the police and firefighters, also cried alarm.

"Three million health takers in France need five masks per day per person, which means 15 million masks are needed per day just to protect ourselves," Lamine Gharbi, president of the Federation of Private Hospitalization, told RMC radio.

France's biggest police trade union Alliance Police nationale denounced the lack of masks and gloves its members need to enforce a country-wide lockdown.

People wearing masks are seen at the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris, France, March 19, 2020. (Photo by Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua)

"The situation is worsening. Police are just asking to work safely. They risk to be infected. So we called for a walking off the job unless security and hygiene conditions are met," said Stanislas Gaudon, national secretary of the Alliance Police nationale.

The Ministry of Health said it had delivered 35 million masks from its strategic reserves of 145 million units to supply health services.

On Wednesday and Thursday, two Chinese aircraft loaded with masks, gloves and other protective equipment landed at Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport.

A man wearing a mask waits for a tram at a station in Paris, France, March 19, 2020. (Photo by Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua)

The masks are donations from two Chinese charities. "At the crucial moment of China's fight against the epidemic, France gave us precious support and help. Currently, while France and all of Europe are facing the serious challenge of the pandemic, China is ready to provide aid as far as possible," said Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye.

Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye admitted that France was facing "logistical difficulties."

"There have been some logistical difficulties recently, but the masks have been arriving in pharmacies since yesterday," she said after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

"We have put pressure on our production, which does not have extensive capacities. That is why we have a thrifty management of these masks with absolute priority given to the health workers," she said.

People wearing masks arrive at the Montparnasse train station in Paris, France, March 19, 2020. (Photo by Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua)

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