Critical care doctors in Paris say surging coronavirus infections could soon overwhelm their ability to care for the sick in the French capital’s hospitals, possibly forcing them to choose which patients they have the resources to save.
The sobering warnings were delivered in newspaper opinions signed by dozens of Paris-region doctors. They came as French President Emmanuel Macron has been vigorously defending his decision not to completely lockdown France again as he did last year.
Since January, Macron’s government has instead imposed a nationwide overnight curfew and followed that with a grab-bag of other restrictions.
But with infections soaring and hospitals increasingly running short of intensive-care beds, doctors have been stepping up the pressure for a full French lockdown.
Writing in Le Journal du Dimanche, 41 Paris-region hospital doctors, predicted that softer new restrictions imposed this month on Paris and some other regions won’t quickly bring the resurgent epidemic under control. They warned that hospital resources won’t be able to keep pace with needs, forcing them to practice “catastrophe medicine” in the coming weeks as cases peak.
“We already know that our capacity to offer care will be overwhelmed,” they wrote.
“We will be obliged to triage patients in order to save as many lives as possible. This triage will concern all patients, with and without COVID, in particular for adult patients’ access to critical care.”
Another group of nine critical-care doctors writing in the newspaper Le Monde also warned that intensive care units in Paris may have to refuse patients
“The current situation is tending toward prioritisation, also called triage,’” they wrote.
“When just one ICU bed is available but two patients could benefit from it, it consists of deciding which of them will be admitted (and will perhaps survive) and which will not be admitted (and will quite probably die). This is where we are heading.”
They also accused Macron’s government of hypocrisy “by compelling health care workers to decide which patient should live and which should die, without stating so clearly.”
Macron remains adamant that not locking France down again this year, like some other European countries, was sound government policy, even as more than 2,000 deaths per week push the country ever closer to the milestone of 100,000 people lost to the pandemic. The country now counts more than 94,600 virus-related deaths.
“We were right not to implement a lockdown in France at the end of January because we didn’t have the explosion of cases that every model predicted,” Macron said last week.
Macron’s administration has been hoping to outrace the resurgent outbreak with its vaccination campaign, an ambition that appears increasingly unrealistic as hospitals struggle.
More than 7.7 million people — close to 15% of all French adults — have had at least one jab of either the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccines.
The government says the pace will continue to pick up, with France expecting to get nearly 3 million additional Pfizer doses this week.
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