Army steps in to help hospitals in east France

Monitoring Desk

PARIS: France’s army transferred six patients in critical condition due to coronavirus to a military facility on Wednesday as it sought to ease the strain on hospitals in the east of the country that are struggling to cope with the spiralling number of cases.

The decision to move patients in intensive care to the southeastern city of Toulon, where several military medical hospitals are located, comes as doctors in the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in the eastern French cities of Mulhouse and Colmar warn that the system is at breaking point. “In the last three days, we have been submerged by emergencies and an incessant flux of patients who need to be hospitalised,” an internal memo from a doctor on the ground and seen by Reuters read.

The French government on Tuesday put its 67 million people under lockdown, in an unprecedented act during peacetime, after an almost 20 pct rise in deaths and reported cases in just 24 hours. Eastern France has been worst hit. Doctors are reporting 10 new critical cases a day, a shortage of equipment and masks, increasing fatigue and growing number of hospital workers also falling ill. They have said they may need to start deciding which patients to prioritise. France in total has about 5,000 intensive care beds across the country. Out of more than 7,500 cases in France, Mulhouse has some 1,800 with the numbers increasing by 300 a day.

President Macron said on Monday France was in a “health war” against the illness. As a result the government ordered the army to begin using its ‘Morphée system’, which has been in use by the military since 2006. This involves military transport planes that are equipped with intensive care units and are used to evacuate troops from conflict zones. (Reuters)