Heatwave probe slams French services

Slack organisation and poor communication have been fingered in an inquiry into France’s summer heatwave deaths, with hospitals and emergency services named as the culprits.

    Bodies of elderly victims filled morgues and hospitals

    The French health minister, Jean-Francois Mattei, who commissioned the probe into 11,435 more deaths than usual, escaped censure in its report, released on Monday.

    However, the senior civil servant in charge of the national health service has resigned over his handling of what the report described as a “catastrophe”.

    Health services also struggled to cope with August's deadly heatwave because of understaffing due to medical staff taking holiday, the three doctors who conducted the inquiry said.

    "For want of anticipation, organisation and coordination, the response was not appropriate," said the report.

    Record temperatures

    The mostly elderly victims died during the first two weeks of August, when temperatures soared above 40C (104F) in the worst heatwave since records began in 1945, causing dehydration and hyperthermia.

    "The catastrophe arose while there were no measures in place to cope with the heat," the doctors' report added. 

    Health Minister Jean-Francois Mattei does the rounds

    The report deals a blow to the prestige of a health service vaunted as the world's best, but which was overrun by heat-stricken patients. The rise in deaths has led the government to consider scrapping a public holiday to fund extra care for the elderly.

    The report suggested improving the organisation of hospital emergency services and looking into installing air conditioning, which most French hospitals do not have.

    Eight days late

    Poor communication between the health ministry, other government departments and medical services on the ground meant all involved failed to grasp the scale of the problem early on.

    "The pooling of available information ... would have allowed the exceptional nature of the phenomenon to be detected earlier ... such that action could have been taken faster, in a more coordinated way and more effectively," the report said.

    France's opposition socialists have accused Mattei of acting too slowly. He put the health service on an emergency footing and recalled holidaying medical staff on 14 August, but official figures show the death rate began rising on 6 August.

    SOURCE: Reuters


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    'Money can't buy us': Mapping Canada's oil pipeline battle

    'Money can't buy us': Mapping Canada's oil pipeline battle

    We travel more than 2,000km and visit communities along the route of the oil pipeline that cuts across Indigenous land.

    Women under ISIL: The wives

    Women under ISIL: The wives

    Women married to ISIL fighters share accounts of being made to watch executions and strap explosives to other women.

    Diplomats for sale: How an ambassadorship was bought and lost

    Diplomats for sale: How an ambassadorship was bought and lost

    The story of Ali Reza Monfared, the Iranian who tried to buy diplomatic immunity after embezzling millions of dollars.