French health workers face rapid escalation of cases

The situation of health workers in France varies from region to region. The towns that had clusters of cases just two weeks ago are now faced with a worrying number of patients.

In Mulhouse, in the East of the country, hospitals are struggling with a large number of cases, and staff and resources are overwhelmed. A little further south, in the Haute-Savoie region, hospitals are keeping their eye on their neighbours and preparing for the worst.

Phillipe Barbin, union representative for the CFDT health section says that the hospital he works at in Annecy is keeping a close eye on the situation in Mulhouse and has decided to rack up its measures accordingly

“We’re having meetings with the hospital management each week,” says Barbin, “In order to increase the number of beds available, they have called on private clinics in the region to help with staff and resources, bringing the number of beds available to 600 in wards and 110 in intensive care.”

For health workers, we have had some difficulties with childcare, but towns nearby have agreed to open some classrooms to ensure children under 16-years-old can be taken care of while their parents work.

As well as the recent addition of local private clinics, the three main public hospitals in the region have reserved beds in several departments, partly through postponing non-essential operations. “In Annecy, the patients on the geriatric ward have been transferred to a new building more fit-for-purpose and we have been able to free beds in intensive care and in normal wards for coronavirus patients.”

A large number of ex-personnel from the hospital, and retired health workers from other hospitals have offered their expertise and support to help their co-workers at the hospital.

Given the current lock-down in France, where people have been encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, non-urgent out-patient appointments have been cancelled, reducing pressure on the hospital staff.

Philippe Barbin and his colleagues remain vigilant and know their work is far from over, even though they hope the containment measures in the country will limit contagion.