“If the whole population calls the center 15, it will be complicated”, fears this medical regulation assistant (ARM).
To limit the congestion of hospital emergencies, the new Minister of Health, François Braun, urged to first contact “the 15th”, which could further intensify the activity of the Samu.
In recent years, the number of calls for non-emergency health issues has already increased there, in parallel with the medical desertification.
“There is a fairly substantial flow of calls to center 15, in particular from people who have difficulty accessing their doctor”, specifies Franck Nickles, 42, without taking his eyes off his control screen.
These people are often “in small towns” far from big cities and “want to have advice”, he says.
In the large room of the Samu de Toulouse, a dozen ARMs and three doctors are busy, at a steady pace, including when the evening is “calm”.
– Incessant calls –
Assistants constantly answer the phone and the first questions of callers, write down their contact details. When it is an urgent case, they transfer the communication to a doctor.
Above their heads, a large screen indicates the places available in the emergencies of Purpan and Rangueil, the two public hospitals which take care of 70% of patients in Haute-Garonne.
As the hours go by, red, a signal of congestion, is gaining ground: the public hospital is 50% of patients above its capacity and the private clinics are also saturated.
Among the doctors, Julie Oudet, 41, headed the Samu 31 team that evening and took over one of the calls. “She’s moaning? Is she conscious?”, she asks, before explaining to her interlocutor how to act until the arrival of the rescuers.
The phone rings and rings. “I called the fire brigade. You must not move it!”, Recommends the emergency doctor to the next one.
In front of her, in a small room adjoining the large one, an assistant takes care of the follow-up of the teams dispatched to the patients.
He sometimes has to manage practical problems that caregivers encounter once on site. “Ma’am, there’s a dog in the yard. He’s not going to attack them? We can’t take that risk,” he said calmly.
– Risks for patients –
When the patient requires it, it is also for Julie Oudet to find a place in the emergency room or in another service.
The emergency doctor must therefore know each of the nearby establishments perfectly to find this precious hospital bed adapted to the problems of the people being cared for.
The Toulouse Samu thus processes a thousand files a day, each file possibly requiring several calls.
At the national level, some 30 million calls are handled by around a hundred centers in 2020.
“Today, when patients have an emergency, they are taken care of”, notes Julie Oudet. But “we are in a very tense situation. This is why there have been cries of alarm launched nationally for years”, she underlines.
“Even if we don’t eat, we don’t sleep and we run everywhere, as we do now, the needs continue to increase”. When the Samu limit is exceeded, there is a risk of “a loss of chance for patients”, deplores this emergency doctor.
A preliminary passage of the patients by the 15 could, according to her, prove positive in order to unclog the hospitals, on the condition however of increasing the means of the Samu which she considers already insufficient.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne wished at the beginning of July “that everyone could take the reflex of the 15th and not systematically come to the emergency room”.
She thus relayed more soberly the message of François Braun, who had said before taking office: “Emergencies can no longer be open bar”.