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A&E doctors strike over bed shortage

A PARISIAN A&E department has been on strike since March 5 over a lack of beds.

Gérald Kierzek, a doctor at the Georges Pompidou A&E department, said A&E units are increasingly overcrowded. Between 1990 and 2004 numbers of patients going to French emergency units doubled so they now receive 16.7m people a year. Eighty per cent go home afterwards but the rest are admitted to hospital (more during an epidemic or heatwave).

The government invested €489 million in emergency departments between 2004 and 2008 and created a specialisation of “emergency doctor.” However Dr Kierzek said that is not enough. A&E was designed to deal with emergencies but today as few as 5% of cases are truly urgent. Medical helplines or out-of-hours walk-in clinics are possible solution, he says, but would add more bureaucracy for patients.

He added: “To deal with emergencies you need equipment. You don't have that in a doctor's consulting room. You can't tell people not to go to emergency. If someone has chest pain it may be indigestion or it could be very serious."

He said another problem is the increase of specialised hospital departments which can be slow to admit patients with multiple problems who need to move on from A&E. General wards should be reinstated to enable serious cases to be hospitalised quickly, he said.

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