PRESIDENT Hollande has ordered an enquiry after a woman lost her baby when she gave birth in the car as she tried to drive to maternity - more than an hour from home.
He said it was important to understand all the circumstances of the “tragedy”, raising the problem of “medical deserts” and reiterating a campaign promise to ensure everyone has emergency care no more than half an hour from home.
The 35-year-old woman from the Lot lost her baby while driving on the A20 motorway to the maternity unit in Brive. It was not her nearest maternity unit, but her doctor reportedly urged to make for it anyway, because of its reputation for dealing with difficult births.
The woman, who was seven months pregnant, had just consulted her gynaecologist in Figeac, north-east Lot, and, according to La Dépêche the doctor, fearing she would soon give birth, advised she go immediately to Brive.
Health Minister Marisol Touraine has been asked to lead the enquiry. She said the details of the recent case must be looked at: “She clearly had a risky pregnancy. Was her medical supervision done properly?”
However she added that “beyond this particular case, there is a major issue around medical deserts and that’s what we need to find answers to”.
The incident has highlighted the lack of maternity units in the Lot – the department of 170,000 inhabitants has only one unit, at Cahors, since the closures of units in Figeac and Gourdon. The last to close was Figeac, in 2009, and at the time many there was a local campaign highlighting risks associated with medical care becoming more spread out geographically.
Left-wing anti-capitalist party NPA however expressed “disgust” at the minister and president’s comments, saying successive governments of both left and right had closed wards and hospitals and had aimed at grouping services together.
It said plans for next year included austerity plans which would lead to more closures and regrouping and it demanded an end to closures of services.