The “plan blanc” has been instigated in Montpellier (Hérault), Île-de-France and the Loire, where cases of severe forms of Covid-19 are rising fast, figures show.
The most recent figures from health body Santé Publique France show that in the past 24 hours (at 14:00 on Saturday September 19), there were 13,498 new cases of coronavirus, and 26 more deaths. In the past seven days, there were 3,853 new hospitalisations; of which 593 are in intensive care.
In Roanne (Loire), Covid-19 related visits to the hospital’s A&E have risen 30% in the past two weeks, with a consequent rise in admissions.
In Île-de-France, local health authority l’Agence Régionale de Santé (ARS) predicts that the region will be in a “highly tense” and pressurised situation within weeks.
Activating the plan blanc - as defined by the ministry of health - means that hospitals can prepare for a forthcoming rise in cases, including taking measures such as reorganising spaces to include more beds, transferring non-urgent patients to other services, and postponing or changing non-urgent operations.
Dr Benjamin Davido, infectious diseases specialist at the Raymond Poincaré de Garches hospital (Hauts-de-Seine), told news service FranceInfo: “We must prepare ourselves for this hypothetical [second] ‘wave’, and we cannot wait, arms folded, waiting for the hospital to become overwhelmed without doing anything.
“This will be damaging to the patients and to the hospital, which is already tired and exhausted due to Covid-19.”
Dr Lyonnel Moiron, at the Roanne hospital, explained: “[The plan blanc] gives us 17 extra beds, which we can increase to 23, by putting two patients in each room, if we end up being overwhelmed.”
Healthcare experts have said that instigating such a plan is allowing them to prepare more in advance for this apparent “second wave” and implement lessons from the first wave in Spring, when - in contrast - many hospitals were struggling to keep up with the rising demands of a new virus that they did not yet know much about.