1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Paris doctors warn of catastrophic COVID overload

March 28, 2021

Hospitals in the French capital may soon become so stretched doctors will have to choose which patients to try and save. President Macron has received the wrath of some doctors in letters penned in French newspapers.

Paris doctors
Doctors in Paris have predicted catastrophic times aheadImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/C. Ena

Doctors in Paris on Sunday warned hospitals could soon become overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic and that they may be forced to choose which patients they have the resources to save.

The sobering warnings were delivered in French newspaper columns signed by dozens of doctors. 

According to health ministry data, France had almost 4,800 coronavirus patients in intensive care on Saturday — a record high for the year so far — and doctors fear the worst is still to come.

What did the doctors say?

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."

The doctors said that softer restrictions introduced this month in the French capital, and some other regions, are partly to blame. Unless there is drastic action, hospital resources won't be able to keep pace with the requirements, forcing them to practice "catastrophe medicine" in the coming weeks.

"We already know that our capacity to offer care will be overwhelmed," the doctors continued. "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."

What is triage?

Another group of nine critical-care doctors writing in Le Monde also warned that intensive care units in Paris may soon have to turn patients away.

"The current situation is tending toward prioritization, also called 'triage,'" they said. "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."

No respite for Dunkirk doctors

Criticizing the government

The nine doctors accused President Emmanuel Macron and his government of hypocrisy "by compelling health care workers to decide which patient should live and which should die, without stating so clearly."

Macron remains adamant that not locking France down again this year was the right thing to do, even as more than 2,000 deaths per week push the country ever closer to the milestone of 100,000 people lost to the pandemic.

jsi/csb (AP, Reuters)