Hospitals in Europe are being overwhelmed by new patients affected by the COVID-19 virus who need critical care. However, the problem is that due to the long recuperation period of the disease, hospital beds are occupied by patients whose condition is improving but who still cannot be discharged. The French have found a solution. They intend to transfer these recuperating patients to regions which are not COVID-19 hot spots to make the beds available to new patients.
They have roped in SNCF, the French railways company for this whole exercise. In 2019, SNCF had carried out an exercise where in they simulated shifting of 400 seriously seriously injured victims of a terrorist attack from Metz to Paris for medical aid. Now they intend to do the opposite. They would be shifting recuperating COVID-19 patients from overcrowded Paris hospitals to hospitals in less affected areas like Angers, Nantes, Le Mans and La Roche-sur-Yon.
The first set of 20 patients were shifted on 26 Mar 20 from Grand Est region to Pays de Loire, the French region least affected by the pandemic. For this transfer, they are using a TGV duplex trainset which has been adapted as a mobile hospital. Each double deck trainset can carry 25 passengers who are placed in stretchers above the seats. The seats have not been removed from the cars. Each trailer car can carry four patients while the train has a medical team comprising 6 personnel. Each team has an anesthetist, a junior doctor, a nurse anesthetist and three nurses.
In case the condition of any of the patients deteriorates during the transfer, medical procedures can be carried out on them in the buffet car. This is akin to the “Wardroom” in naval ships which use the officer’s mess as an operation theatre where the dining table doubles as the operating table.
In addition to the medical team, the train carries a double train crew with two drivers and necessary railways staff onboard.