The Health Minister, Marisol Touraine, gave the green light for emergency measures in hospitals, such as the cancelling non important operations, to answer the most important flu epidemic that France has seen in the last five years.
“We had not seen such a large epidemic since the 2009/2010 pandemic,” says epidemiologist Isabelle Bonmarin, responsible for surveillance of influenza in Health Monitoring Institute (VS). It reported a higher number of hospitalizations “in people at risk such as the elderly, who often have other diseases.
The Orsan plan which was triggered today provides for the mobilization of the Private sector (private practice), so that the hospitals be reserved for emergencies, and cancelling of non-urgent operations in hospitals.
“In practical terms it is the ARS (regional health agencies) to be attentive to what is happening in their regions, as hospitals are organized either with beds openings or with the reorganization of services to accommodate flu patients” said Ms. Touraine Friday, visiting a nursing home in the Val-d’Oise.
The Orsan plan is triggered when the emergency is denounced as a “critical health situation” in hospitals.
Patrick Pelloux, president of the Association of Emergency Physicians of France (Amuf), the situation was anticipated but undermined by public authorities who should have reacted a week earlier.
“The situation is very complicated in a approx a dozen regions”, stated, François Braun, president of the ER-Samu de France association, adding that the situation “has really deteriorated over the last three weeks.”
At the Hospital Nord de la Croix-Rousse in Lyon, Véronique POTINET, emergency department manager, reports that “the hospital is full for a month or two. People stay for hours on stretchers. Each Winter their are increased hospital admissions and we do not know where to put the patients. ”
The General Directorate for Health (DGS) has recognized, for its part on Wednesday that the “tensions” were observed since January in “certain” hospitals because of the flu epidemic that began in mid-January, coupled to “the increase in other winter illnesses”.
First in line to fight the flu, GPs have treated the vast majority of those affected, according to the Claude Leicher, President of the Syndicat MG France, and took the opportunity to recall that the general medical needs additional resources to solve “the classic problem of ER overcrowding “.
According to the latest statistics released by InVS, the flu has already affected more than 2 million people since the beginning of the epidemic, with 600,000 new cases last week.
But uncertainties remain about whether the epidemic has already reached its peak (the highest level in terms of number of new cases per week).
“We believe that the epidemic peak was reached in last week and we have already begun the descent, but this data has yet to be confirmed” said Ms. Bonmarin while the Ministry of Health estimates that the peak has not yet reached “.
The number of hospitalizations, including resuscitation, however continues to rise, “especially among the over 65’s” as InVS also observed “excess deaths” from all causes in people 65 years and over ” but adds that “it is not known how many of these deaths are attributable to influenza.”
Last week, there were 245 new severe flu cases which were hospitalized in intensive care, bringing to the total number to 728 of serious cases which have reported since the 1st November 2014 and which has resulted in 72 deaths, according to InVS.
But the Institute also adds at the same time that the rate of hospitalization and death “are still under usual values.”