The SAMU-Urgences de France (SUdF) union has said a survey had revealed that acute medical services risk an “explosive situation” in hospital, after a month “in overdrive” because of a lack of staff cover and a shortage of beds.
“Our health system is going through an unprecedented crisis,” the union said after its survey of emergency medical care systems, based on feedback from 331 health establishments in 92 départements, was published.
The summer brings particular challenges to the medical system as staff take holidays and many patients are unable to see their usual doctor – either because the doctor is on holiday or because the patient is visiting a different part of France – and so use emergency or out-of-hours services.
“In this context, access to urgent care and unscheduled care are threatened and emergency structures are put in overdrive,” the report said.
Of the 331 establishments surveyed, 90 percent of them said they had difficulties with medical staffing and 89 percent with non-medical staffing. Seventy-three percent have resorted to interim solutions during the summer to reinforce emergency services. In addition, almost all facilities (95 percent) reported a significant lack of available beds for their patients.
In total, 72 hospitals (22 percent of those surveyed) said they had to reduce or close their acute care units (UHCD), while 42 hospitals said shortages forced them to close emergency departments overnight.
The report said the government’s 41 recommendations of the “mission flash” intended to ease summer issues in healthcare which came into force this summer, were “insufficient”.
The report said the recommendations, following a report by François Braun before he was appointed Minister of Health, “does not ensure fluidity and safe operation” in emergencies.
Recommendations include “regulating admissions”, either with “paramedical triage at the entrance” to ERs, or by “systematic prior medical regulation” by the SAMU telephone switchboard.
“Educational messages will be broadcast to encourage the French to call 15 before any trip to the emergency room, in order to be better oriented towards a care offer adapted to their needs”, the Minister of Health said when the mission’s recommendations were introduced in July.
To fight against the “additional hardship” of the summer period, SUdF has called for the “upgrading of paramedical staff”, including for ambulance drivers and medical switchboard operators, the doubling of allowances for night and weekend guards, and improved bed management.
“Without binding measures, we must expect a rapid evolution towards an explosive situation”, SUdF warned.
Its forecasts predict “the situation will deteriorate further in August, with an increase in institutional closures of beds and a decrease in the availability of care linked to vacations”.