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Flu epidemic leaves French hospitals in crisis

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Flu epidemic leaves French hospitals in crisis
Accident and emergency wards are struggling to deal with flu patients. Photo: Pascal Pavani/AFP

France has triggered its crisis response plan after hospitals raised the alarm on Thursday that they were struggling to cope with the flu epidemic that has now struck down more than two million patients.

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On Thursday accident and emergency wards spoke of a “critical health situation” in hospitals across France and called on the government to provide more beds.

"In emergency wards there are thousands of patients on stretchers, waiting for a bed. Sometimes they have to wait more than 24 hours,or have to be transferred tens of kilometers away," Christophe Prudhomme president of AMUF, the association of emergency doctors in France, told BFM TV.

“We are asking hospitals to open up extra beds and that the quality of care is the best possible to manage the situation this winter,” read a statement from AMUF.

The “over saturation of emergency services is comparable to the situation in 2003” said François Braun, from the organisation Samu-Urgences de France, referring to the deadly summer heatwave that left 15,000 dead.

In response to the call from hospitals health minister Marisol Touraine triggered the ORSAN action plan, which helps health authorities provide care in “exceptional circumstances”.

It allows regional health authorities to demand more resources in the event of a crisis. That could include opening up extra beds or funding the costs of bringing in extra staff. 

Health authorities declared this week that the number of people affected the by the flu virus in France has now passed two million.

The Local reported at the end of January how the flu had taken hold of the country and had reached the point of an epidemic, partly due to the fact this year’s jab has been ineffective.

Experts say the effectiveness of the flu jab may not be optimal because the influenza strain that has been most frequently recorded this season is slightly different from the one used in the vaccination.

The peak of the epidemic was forecast to be mid-February.

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