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 said: “We have never known such a situation, even during the worst (terror) attacks” that targeted the French capital, notably assaults by Islamic State extremists in 2015 that killed 130 people and filled Paris emergency wards with the wounded.
The 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 prioritization, 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.”