COVID-19 | Coronavirus

overseas territories alert to a possible health disaster

A woman wearing a protective mask on the streets of Saint-Denis on Reunion Island, March 19.
A woman wearing a protective mask on the streets of Saint-Denis on Reunion Island, March 19. RICHARD BOUHET / AFP

The Covid-19 epidemic is still in its infancy overseas, but already health professionals and politicians are alerting to a possible health disaster in these territories which will not be able to transfer their patients to others departments.

Read also How the overseas are trying to stem the coronavirus epidemic

There is great concern in Reunion and Mayotte, which moved to stage 2 of the epidemic on Tuesday; the rest of the overseas territories are still in stage 1 and the mainland already in stage 3.

Reunion now has 94 cases, often “Imported” from mainland France. The most populous overseas territory, with nearly 860,000 inhabitants, has 112 intensive care beds.

This Indian Ocean island is “Far from everything, with such poverty, precariousness, promiscuity and with so many comorbidities, a population so often cruelly deprived, that we can expect mortality rates higher than those in metropolitan France”, explains doctor Kathia Cadinouche, general practitioner and regulator at the SAMU, speaking on behalf of“An informal collective of field professionals”.

“We are on an island, far from the metropolis: when our means of care for severe cases are saturated, there will be no possibility of alternative care”, adds the county medical council.

Faced with the failing hospital system of neighboring islands, Madagascar, the Comoros and even Mayotte, the only possible medical evacuation should be to France, ten hours by plane.

Also read: Mayotte and La Réunion fear the worst with the Covid-19 epidemic

“In normal times, we are not enough”

Mayotte also expects the worst. “We are not expecting a wave, it is a tsunami”, warns MP Les Républicains (LR) Mansour Kamardine, who claims a cargo plane and the helicopter carrier The Mistral with its 69 medical beds. “Three times less well equipped than La Réunion per inhabitant, (…) Mayotte is only provided with 16 intensive care beds” for 256,000 inhabitants, he laments, while caregivers are already infected with the virus.

“I’m afraid of exposing myself and my patients”, admits Saïndou Allaoui, president of the National union of the liberal nurses. “Everyone is afraid, we are not equipped, we do not have the necessary means. “ Ousseni Balahachi, general secretary of the UI-CFDT Mayotte and nurse at the hospital of Mamoudzou, calls for a ” right of withdrawal “ hospital staff. “In normal times, we are not enough, we cannot take care of the population. If everyone is infected, how will the hospital work? “he asks, regretting that “The material arrives in a dropper”.

A curfew has been put in place across the country.

Curfew until April 5 in Guyana

Martinique and Guadeloupe, with predominantly elderly populations, each deplore their first death from Covid-19.

Guadeloupe currently has 94 confirmed cases, including 7 in intensive care, and has around 50 intensive care beds. “We are waiting for a wave, that’s for sure, but we don’t know how high”, explained to Agence France-Presse Professor Michel Carles, head of the intensive care unit at the CHU de Guadeloupe, himself tested positive, as did the director general of the establishment. For Delphine Roux, liberal nurse at Sainte-Anne, “Anxiety is mounting (…). We no longer have an FFP2 mask, no more blouse ”.

In Martinique, where 57 cases are recorded, “The health situation was already tense before the arrival of Covid-19, which makes it all the more destitute in the face of the care of serious cases”, because “The number of beds in intensive care is far below the national average”, says a collective of hospital staff. Several doctors are calling for Cuban doctors to come.

Also read: Obesity, diabetes, hypertension … The overseas regions plagued by nutritional inequalities

Guyana, which currently has 27 cases, has 11 to 13 resuscitation beds at Cayenne hospital, according to the UTG-Health union, double, according to hospital sources, for 290,000 inhabitants. Also there are “A chronic shortage of health professionals”, testifies a caregiver, under anonymity. “Many specialist doctors practice on the territory through a system of vacations. Insufficient in normal times, we deplore their withdrawal for the weeks to come. “

The prefect of Guyana has decided to put the whole country under curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. until April 15, to combat the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

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The World with AFP

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