Eight Polynesian patients placed in intensive care after serious forms of Covid-19 took off Friday shortly before midnight from Tahiti (Saturday noon in Paris) and must arrive in the day Sunday in metropolitan France, a medical evacuation over an unprecedented distance, noted a AFP journalist.
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Over such a distance and with so many patients, it is a world first
," Dr. François Braun, president of the SAMU Urgences de France and coordinator of this operation, told AFP. Thirty-five caregivers and two tonnes of medical equipment travel with the patients, all of whom are kept in an artificial coma. "
It is an aircraft that has been completely transformed to make it a resuscitation service and provide a level of care comparable to what we would find on the ground
", explained Dr Arnaud Derossi, regional medical director in Europe for the company International SOS, which organizes this medical evacuation.
It takes 12 hours for the Air Caraïbes A350 to reach Pointe-à-Pitre, then 8 hours to arrive in Paris.
The stopover in Guadeloupe is necessary to replace the 18 cylinders containing nearly 60,000 liters of oxygen.
With 593 deaths per 280,000 inhabitants, three quarters of which in the last six weeks, Polynesia is one of the French territories hardest hit by the epidemic at present.
Hospitalizations have declined in recent days, but resuscitation remains "
under high tension
" according to the hospital center.
"Essential for the survival of others"
What we are doing here is essential for the survival of others,
" Polynesian President Edouard Fritch said as the plane left.
At his side, High Commissioner Dominique Sorain confirmed that this theft was "
a way to ease the pressure on the hospital
According to Dr Braun, in Polynesia "
this will give the possibility of taking care of patients who are awaiting resuscitation
" or suffering from pathologies unrelated to Covid.
One by one, throughout the evening, the patients were brought by ambulance, hoisted onto a covered platform at the level of the plane, then transported by human arms on the stretchers pre-installed in the A350.
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Nearly 130 patients have been evacuated by wide-body aircraft from overseas territories to the metropolis in recent weeks, according to International SOS: twelve flights from the West Indies, and one from Reunion. These islands are however much closer to the metropolis than French Polynesia. This flight is funded by the Ministry of Health, to the tune of 700,000 euros for air transport.