Covid-19: “We were not ready, we still are not”

The same goes for the Covid-19 epidemic as it is for these collective traumas that the mind tries to hide in order to free the future. A carefree summer is enough to blur the memory. Forgetting is redeeming on the condition of having learned the lessons of the drama. While the scourge has revived quietly, infectiologists, direct witnesses of the cataclysm that was the first wave for hospital workers, take turns on the continuous news channels to remind everyone that recklessness and unpreparedness can cost human lives. This experience, Professor Gilles Pialoux, head of the infectious diseases department at Tenon hospital in Paris, has kept a written record. Day after day, from the moment the virus was invited into expert conversations until deconfinement, he recorded his experience as a caregiver at the front.

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Posted at JC Lattès this Wednesday, We weren’t ready A timely reminder of how much Sars-CoV-2 caught the world by surprise. With what disconcerting ease «Gripounette» from China, as a renowned practitioner recklessly called it, broke through carefully planned sanitary defenses: “Our patient zero burned out the steps provided for in the level 1, 2, 3 crisis management plan. We were supposed to be called in at level 3. But Mr. F.’s virus entered through the window. He didn’t ring the emergency room doorbell. He had been in our walls since February 19 ”, consign Pialoux in his logbook on February 27. How also, faced with an invisible enemy of which nobody knows anything or almost nothing yet, the lack of vigilance is paid in cash. “At the moment, our hospital has three times more contaminated caregivers than hospitalized patients. That is to say 66 hospital staff, doctors, interns placed in fourteen following the first patient contact ”, writes the infectious disease specialist on March 5.

Betrayal of technocracy

We weren’t ready is the story of astonishment. That of a hospital quickly overwhelmed by the uninterrupted flow of seriously ill patients. That of caregivers confronted with administrative injunctions above ground, the dodging of political decisions and disconcerting shortages. Supporting speech: “We have been found kimonos to replace the gowns that hardly provide protection, writes the infectious disease specialist on April 14. The charlottes are distributed in a dropper. In some departments there are only size Small gloves. FFP2 masks dating from 2012 were distributed with a single rubber band. Ponchos arrive that the staff considers contaminating by lack of protection. ”

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Betrayed by technocracy, the staff are sticking together. The hospital has to hold on. But all patients are no longer treated in the same way. Pialoux admits it: the missing places in intensive care, “Age has become a selection factor, even if it is not the only one”. When the drama is there “Collective interest takes precedence over individual interest and utilitarianism over egalitarianism”, recognizes the infectious disease specialist. We could not better say war.

The citizens were grateful to the caregivers for their dedication. But by dint of contradictory messages and over-hyped scientific controversy (we remember hydroxychloroquine), the experts have lost their credit. Overinformed, public opinion is now wary of poorly established injunctions. The current reluctance of the French to be inoculated with a vaccine developed a little too quickly proves it. The infectious disease specialist is not mistaken. At a time when the Covid tide is rising, the alerts of practitioners are less. To avoid the worst, the health strategy no longer suffers from approximation, or even inconsistency. Whether it’s masks, screening, or research. Not won, according to Pialoux: “We weren’t ready. We still are not. ”

Nathalie Raulin


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