Covid-19 in France

Paris-area hospitals asked to up ICU beds as Covid infections surge

Medical staff members work in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated at the Melun-Senart hospital, near Paris, France, March 8, 2021.
Medical staff members work in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated at the Melun-Senart hospital, near Paris, France, March 8, 2021. REUTERS - BENOIT TESSIER

Paris area hospitals are being encouraged to increase their intensive care capacity for Covid-19 patients, with infections on the rise. Hospitals are anticipating a surge of critical cases over the next two weeks.

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"The number of patients in critical care will, in a few days, increase over 1,500,” the regional health agency, Ars, said Tuesday, pointing out that already 1,370 Covid patients were in ICU in Paris area hospitals.

The agency recommended that hospitals aim to add at least 2,200 ICU Covid beds, as transferring patients to other hospitals has proven complicated. Patients are not stable enough to transport, and families have not been giving their permission.

Adding Covid beds will mean rescheduling planned surgeries and other medical procedures.

Paris area hospitals currently have 1,577 Covid ICU beds, for which they already had to reschedule 40 per cent of procedures earlier this month. The new additions could require postponing up to 80 per cent of procedures.

Cases going up, different population

The Paris region is one of the worst hit in this third wave of Covid infections, with cases increasing rapidly. Results from a lockdown put in place last week will not be felt for at least two weeks, and doctors are anticipating a rush of critical care patients.

Whatever we do, those contaminated today will need hospital care in ten days, on average, and those hospitalised will need two or three weeks of care,” said Jean-Francois Timsit, head of the intensive care service of the Bichat hospital in Paris, on French public radio Wednesday. “The next month will be terrible.”

Paris public hospitals have revived a three-day training programme put in place last year for volunteers from other regions, to allow them to help Covid patients in ICU. Today, with other regions facing their own Covid surges, Paris hospitals are looking inwards, offering the training to students and nurses who work in surgery and other medical services.

France is increasing its vaccination campaign, and has already managed to vaccinate a lot of its older population, who were the majority of ICU cases in the fist and second waves. But today patients are younger.

“50 to 70 years old, diabetic, with a bit of hypertension, and overweight, mostly men. That’s the typical profile of people,” said Timsit. They also come from poorer backgrounds, with “less access to healthcare. They don’t always speak French, which makes access to healthcare is more complicated, so there is a social level coming into play.”

(with wires)

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