Coronavirus: Vets lend equipment to breaking-point Paris hospitals

Health authorities in the greater Paris region have called on local veterinary surgeons to donate life-saving equipment as hospitals struggle to cope with surging coronavirus cases.

Coronavirus: Vets lend equipment to breaking-point Paris hospitals
Medics say Paris hospitals are at breaking point. Photo: AFP

The greater Paris Île-de-France region has the highest number of coronavirus cases in France, although some of these are cases that have been transferred to the specialist hospitals in the capital.

Health chiefs in the region warned at the end of last week that they were approaching the limits of their capacity and since then numbers of confirmed cases in France have continued to rise.

On Monday local health chiefs told French media that “the Ministry of Health has approached the Veterinary Medical Council to ask what kind of anaesthesia and resuscitation equipment veterinarians have in their facilities and to identify which ones they can make available.”

And veterinary hospitals from across the region have rushed to help, donating life-saving equipment including ventilators and monitoring devices.

French newspaper Le Parisien reported that 50 ventilators and 40 anaesthesia monoitoring devices have been loaned to hospitals by veterinary practices across the region.

On Friday The Local spoke to Célestin-Alexis Agbessi, a doctor at the Bichat Hospital in the 18th arrondissement in Paris, who said the hospital's 26 intensive care beds were all full.

READ ALSO ANALYSIS When will the coronavirus epidemic peak in France?

Over the weekend the total number of intensive care beds in the region was increased from 1,500 to 2,000 but Dr Agbessi said that would still not be enough.

“If the epidemic follows a growth pattern comparable to what we have seen in Italy and China, it's clear that we're only at the beginning,” he said.

Patients are also set to be transferred out of Paris to hospitals in Brittany, which has seen a lower number of cases.

Health authorities had already been airlifting some patients out of the badly-hit eastern areas of France, and have also comissioned special 'medical trains' to transfer people to facilities in other parts of the country.

But on Wednesday the first medical train from Île-de-France will leave for Brittany. 

READ ALSO Which areas of France are worst affected by coronavirus?

A military hospital has also been constructed in Mulhouse in eastern France to take some of the pressure off local hospitals.


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French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.