Still exhausted by the first wave, Mulhouse hospital in search of energy

Eight months ago, the Mulhouse hospital became the unfortunate pioneer in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic. Without reaching the fury of spring, the second wave forces its teams to draw on their last strength.

From the open door of a room in the geriatric ward, a hoarse cough can be heard, a rattle. “How are you?” Asks Dr. Yann Groc of the geriatrics department of Emile-Muller hospital, before checking the condition of this 93-year-old man, suffering from Covid-19 and placed under palliative oxygenation .

“On the first wave, we were constantly in search of information on this disease, on the second, we are especially in search of energy”, summarizes this doctor who was himself sick at the beginning of the epidemic, like almost all of the caregivers on her team.

Even with a better knowledge of the virus, “it remains a disease facing which we are powerless”, requiring “a lot of presence and vigilance”, he explains.

In geriatrics, the Covid unit was closed on June 21. It was reopened on November 9 and its 13 beds are occupied.

“We were never able to ask ourselves”, explains Dr. Groc, because for four months we had to make up for the care not taken in the spring with chronic pathologies having worsened.

– Regain strength –

The Emile-Muller hospital had 100 Covid patients on Tuesday, including 18 in intensive care. In sharp increase since the beginning of November, but far from the “wall” taken in the face in the spring, when a military hospital was built in the parking lot and that there were up to 500 Covid beds.

This second wave is characterized by “a more regular influx” of sick patients, a “more serene atmosphere” linked to experience, more equipment and a proven organization, but this is without counting on the accumulated fatigue. Many nurses on Dr. Groc’s team were focusing on two weeks vacation at the end of the year. But can this leave be taken?

“Even if we do not lose the meaning of our work, there is a moment when we have to regain strength”, insists Nathalie Dannenberger, health manager, noting, moreover, a greater “verbal aggressiveness” of families, now less inclined to accept not to see their relatives hospitalized.

If the emergency services and resuscitation have been highlighted in the fight against the virus, others are also paying their price.

“The teams are tired and it leaves traces. It is still lively”, explains Mélanie Fratz, radiology manipulator, service at the outpost to determine the extent of the disease. She fears that this return of the epidemic is psychologically “perhaps even harder”.

“It’s complicated for everyone to dive back into it after such a short time,” confirms Honorine Rerat, internal medicine nurse. Dive back there this time without the little attentions of the population towards the nursing staff “who were heartwarming”, but also knowing that we will no longer be able to count on reinforcements from other French regions, all affected by their tower.

This time, “we are all on an equal footing”, but “we still manage to cope”, assures Audrey Litzler, nurse graduated for a year, despite “the present fatigue” and “days that are becoming more more complicated “.

– Close team –

The key to holding on? “A very close-knit team” is coming back to everyone. The door to the physical and psychological support unit for hospital staff is also frequently pushed.

“Since the first wave, we have not let go and we will not let go,” says Gaëlle Miehe, senior manager in the microbiology department, where, with the explosion of PCR tests, activity has been “non-stop” .

Laboratory technicians are also starting to work at night on Thursday to process the tests carried out in the emergency room as quickly as possible in order to separate Covid patients from others.

The hospital, which initially had to send its tests to Strasbourg, gradually equipped itself with three machines. “Over a week, we manage to do more than 1,000 analyzes, but we remain tight on the supply of reagents”, explains Dr. Alain Gravet, head of department.

“We have not stopped doing Covid since March”, breathes Antoine Brossard, technician in molecular biology. “It is starting to take a long time.”

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