The discomfort of emergencies forces us to rethink the French health system

The story of our reporter Monica Pinna in the emergency services of the Var: she takes stock of the lack of means, the demands of carers and the possible solutions in France.

The French health system, considered at the time to be one of the best in Europe and the world, is today going through an unprecedented crisis. The situation of its emergency services is especially worrying at the beginning of summer when the number of patients who come there increases. I traveled to France to take the pulse of these services, but also to understand the causes of their saturation and possible solutions.

“It is a danger for the patient”

“We don’t have the structure, nor the conditions, nor the team, nor the workforce, it becomes complicated”, laments Maxime Bartolini, an emergency nurse at the Fréjus Saint-Raphaël hospital on the Côte d’Azur. From the tone of her voice, I guess she went through a lot of hardship.

“We’ve had a tight schedule since December,” he continues, “with all the peripheral hospital structures that begin to close at night. It is a danger for the patient, it is for us, a saturation”, he said. “We go beyond the function, we help each other, we do a little, but we no longer have so many solutions, then it becomes catastrophic”, He complains.

Emergency rooms closed at night.

Fréjus Saint-Raphaël is the main hospital in Var. Five permanent doctors are missing on site, which is nothing compared to the other emergency services in this department. About 30 km away, Draguignan, which has a service area of ​​100,000 inhabitants, is again closed at night, seven days a week, in early summer. About twenty permanent doctors would be needed to make it fully functional. Today, there are only seven. From Draguignan, you have to travel 40 minutes by road to reach the nearest hospital, that of Fréjus Saint-Raphaël.

The deputy chief of emergencies at this last establishment, Gabriel Moncheaux, explains to me that patients remain on stretchers in the corridors of his department, sometimes for up to 48 hours, waiting for a hospital bed.

Shortage of hospital staff affects other countries in Europe

This flagrant lack of hospital staff affects not only the French Mediterranean coast, but the entire country, as well as other countries in Europe.

The pandemic has highlighted the difficult situation that European health systems have been in for a long time.

Covid exhaustion accelerated the departure of caregivers from the hospital. There are simply more people leaving than young doctors and nurses arriving.

Solutions in France this summer?

This deep crisis dominated the political debate in the run-up to the French legislative elections in June. French President Emmanuel Macron has launched a month-long mission to try to find solutions that will be implemented this summer.

During this report, I met the man who was then leading this Emmanuel Macron “flash mission” in Paris: François Braun, an emergency physician and president of the Samu-Emergencies union in France, who has since been appointed Minister of Health.

He is convinced that the emergency crisis is just the tip of the iceberg. According to him, for emergencies to work, the entire health system must be profoundly transformed. He says that he is ready to do it.

Today, healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic need more than a round of applause. They want the means to do their job and it is literally a matter of life and death.


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