The worst is never certain, but at the Rennes University Hospital the summer turned out “worse than the previous ones, as we had anticipated”. Head of emergencies at the main hospital in Ille-et-Vilaine, Professor Louis Soulat knows that he came close, with four services from the same department “closed simultaneously during the night”, a jump of 30% of calls to the Samu in July-August and “twice as many” closed beds during the staff vacation.

Somehow, with the reinforcement of students and an effort from private clinics, “the emergencies held up”, he says.

But “we can’t say that it went well either”, adds his colleague Vincent Bounes, boss of the Samu de Haute-Garonne, where “it was the first time that we had to deal with service closures on many establishments, sometimes for an entire week”.

Even the Toulouse University Hospital had to resolve to only accept “vital emergencies” on certain evenings, due to a strike by caregivers demanding more staff. Fortunately, the flow of patients dried up in mid-July, in part thanks to a seventh wave of Covid that rose lower than the previous ones, he notes.

A little luck and a lot of elbow grease, then. The Minister of Health, François Braun, remembers above all that “the announced disaster did not occur” and wants to see the effect of his “flash mission” smoothly carried out just before his entry into government at the very beginning of July.

Thus, the increase in calls to the Samu “of the order of 20%” at the national level shows, according to him, that the official instruction “to call 15 before moving” has borne fruit and that “this message has passed “.

– “Put to danger” –

“There is a change in perception among some of the patients”, more aware of “the need for medical regulation”, confirms Professor Karim Tazarourte, head of Samu de Lyon, convinced that this point must be emphasized and “hammer that we should not hesitate to ask for an opinion before coming to the emergency room”.

But at the other end of the line, “the arduousness of the work has increased” for caregivers and the times of “pick up” are “much longer”, which puts “in danger people who call for emergencies”, denounces Gilbert Mouden, nurse anesthetist and elected Sud-Santé at the Bordeaux University Hospital, who reports a peak of 35 calls pending simultaneously.

“There is a gap between the minister’s communication and reality”, affirms the CGT-Santé, which observes that “the 15 centers are overwhelmed, the staff are exhausted” and “the emergency services close unexpectedly (. ..) including in big cities”.

The unions come to take legal action: as in Laval in mid-August, a report was sent last week to the Bayonne prosecutor’s office, for “endangering” staff and patients. “If one of us is one day implicated, justice will have been alerted to what is happening,” explains Patrick Cazalis, Unsa delegate from the Basque hospital.

“Dramas, there have been, like all the time”, advances Marie-Pierre Martin, president of the Collectif Inter-Urgences, who sees “always patients staying 24, 48 hours or more, treated in degraded mode just because ‘there are no places elsewhere’.

The situation remains precarious. “The teams are wrung out” and “very fragile”, underlines Dr. Marc Noizet, head of emergencies in Mulhouse and successor to Mr. Braun at the head of the Samu-Urgence de France association. Already predicting “a very complicated autumn”, he hopes “strong signals from this start of the school year”, to prevent “some services from finding themselves in even greater difficulty”