In French Polynesia, the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases is as dazzling as it is devastating. Between August 20 and 22, 54 people died there from the coronavirus. In two weeks, the incidence rate has multiplied by 14, reaching on August 21 2,800 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. “And we will soon exceed 3,000”, warns Doctor Philippe-Emmanuel Dupire, president of the Medical Commission of establishment at the French Polynesia Hospital Center in Taaone (Tahiti).
→ THE FACTS. Covid-19: towards a third dose of vaccine from 65 years old
A cold and sudden shower, for this Overseas collectivity of less than 300,000 inhabitants where no more Covid patient cases were hospitalized on July 9. “We barely had time to put a back-up plan in place, which the arrival of the Delta variant sprayed”, testifies Doctor Dupire.
A poorly vaccinated population
Very quickly it turned into “Disaster plan”, in a population of which only 32% have a complete vaccination schedule, and which also suffers from a high accumulation of comorbidities “Due to the high prevalence of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes”, specifies epidemiologist Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva.
“80% of our beds are occupied by Covid patients and we have succeeded in tripling our capacity in intensive care with now 63 places, details Philippe-Emmanuel Dupire. We have also installed military beds supplied by oxygen cylinders in the nave of the hospital. We had no choice. “
To properly operate the 300 beds dedicated to Covid patients, human resources are needed. If Tahiti has been autonomous in the production of oxygen for ten years, it is the arms that are sorely lacking.
No more arms or space
The doctor mentions the need for “Hundred additional nurses”, simply to reduce the number of intensive care patients per caregiver to two. Currently, a nurse takes care of an average of four patients according to Dr. Dupire, “Which makes their care more dangerous”, he regrets. According to the Ministry of Health, seven nurses and three anesthetists-resuscitators should join this Wednesday, August 25, the 15 metropolitan nurses and the eight Caledonian nurses already mobilized.
→ ANALYSIS. Back to school: primary school, weak link in the anti-Covid strategy?
Although French Polynesia “Benefits from a high quality health infrastructure”, recalls Antoine Flahault, its hospital capacities are sized for its 283,000 inhabitants in normal conditions and not for “Absorb the shock of a strong pandemic wave”. Especially since the position of French Polynesia more than 15,000 km from Paris makes “Very difficult and perilous medical evacuations to the metropolis”.
The challenge now is to get patients out quickly in order to accommodate the 150 others who arrive daily. Equipped with small oxygen concentrators, patients whose condition allows it are sent home, “Although most are too heavy patients for that”, laments Doctor Dupire. “It’s war medicine, he sighs. We do the best we can, with the means we have. “