Reunion overwhelmed by a strong dengue epidemic

By Jérôme Talpin

Posted today at 10:37 am, updated at 10:49 am

At the Ouest Réunion hospital center (CHOR), the adult emergency department is always full and caregivers must adapt to the influx of patients.  Saint-Paul, Reunion Island, May 25, 2021.

“The hospital is full-full-full. And it’s like that every day. Here, we are overwhelmed by dengue, not by Covid. We take all possible beds. ” In twenty-five years of emergency medicine, Katia Mougin Damour, head of the department at the Center hospitalier Ouest Réunion (CHOR), ensures “Never to have seen that”. The Pentecost weekend was tough. More than 180 emergency room visits in twenty-four hours. “Hell”, like the previous weekend, when the record had been broken with 196 passages, against 100 to 120 in normal times, excluding the epidemic. “There were patients everywhere, even sitting on the floor, recounts this seasoned and energetic doctor. We didn’t know where to put them. Some were waiting outside. Fortunately, the weather is good all year round. “

This Tuesday, May 25, the occupancy rate of the establishment is 105%. About fifteen entries are recorded per hour, half of which for dengue, a virus transmitted by the tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus. Since the beginning of April, on the island, cases of dengue have outnumbered those of Covid-19. The CHOR, this ocher-colored butterfly-shaped hospital, is by far the most concerned because this year, between 70% and 80% of dengue cases are located in the west of the island, a population basin of approximately 230,000 inhabitants.

Emergencies, whose activity has increased from 40% to 50%, are saturated. The medical services and their 135 beds too. Because a third of dengue patients must be hospitalized for several days due to “major biological disturbances or because they can no longer stand up”, describes Dr Mougin Damour. “We no longer have enough beds downstream, post-emergency, notes Professor Christophe Vanhecke, head of the internal medicine department. We have therefore every day between 20 and 30 patients hospitalized in the emergency room, but the emergency room is not an inpatient service. ”

One of the emergency doctors examines one of the patients installed on the emergency stretchers, the same type as those in the army.  CHOR, Saint-Paul, Reunion Island, May 25, 2021.
The airlock usually used by firefighters or SMUR vehicles has been transformed into a chamber with sixteen stretchers, or more if necessary.  Patients call it the “garage”.  Saint-Paul, Reunion Island, May 25, 2021.

“Our daily life since mid-April”

The establishment is reorganizing itself as best it can and has “Pushed the walls”. The ambulance reception area has been transformed. Between the two automatic roll-up doors, sixteen stretchers welcome patients in small boxes, barely separated by colored curtains. On the ceiling, the exposed pipes give the air of a country hospital. “It looks weird, this garage configuration”, smiles Jean, 45, an inhabitant of the port affected by dengue fever, who arrived in the morning after feeling unwell and several days of fever, body aches, headache and a state of great fatigue.

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