“I stayed 24 hours on the same stretcher in the hospital, without eating anything”

At the beginning of September, I had to go to the emergency room for an important examination due to a long Covid, Omicron variant. The Samu took me to the Lariboisière hospital, at half past twelve, on Sunday September 4 for examinations.

I found myself lying in the middle of patients who were screaming in pain, rage, abandonment, whatever. And the nurses were running in there, overwhelmed… They were handing out ” I arrive ! » and ” That works ! “. ” I’m coming, I’m coming ! » But no one was coming. Never.

It took me twelve hours myself to get half a glass of questionable water. Lukewarm. I stayed twenty-four hours on the same stretcher, without eating anything, in a no man’s land. It was Kafka.

The sick fair

Realize: I am blind. I sometimes felt that my stretcher was being carried away, that I was crossing a courtyard, perhaps? It was colder, that’s all I can say. And then they left me there, without any business, without any means of communication with my relatives (who, moreover, were not informed of the evolution of the situation). Was I in a hallway? In a common room? After a while, I really thought I was going crazy. Ah, if I had had a camera like when I was a war reporter… If I had been able to see what I heard…

As soon as I arrived at the hospital, my ambulance passed in front of people of absolute poverty, who were complaining loudly about having been turned back.

Dope ?

Social misery?

These were not even admitted to the “door service”, the patient fair, the antechamber of the hospital through which one accesses the emergency room. The nurses, who already do not have enough time to dispense to the sick admitted within the walls, see them decided when they are going to take up their service. No doubt their vocation has been reduced to shreds for a long time.

Private clinic

Hence the ” That works “them ” I arrive “. I heard that all night.

The nurses and caregivers, I know them well, I have lived among them, I know that they would have desperately wanted to be able to take care of everyone… And especially that the hospital works. The next afternoon, the hospital not having a bed available for me, they took me to a private clinic, without ever having informed my relatives. I was the third wandering soul this clinic received that day.

I had already made an investigation from the inside in 1974, by committing myself incognito as a nurse’s aide in a cardiovascular surgery department of a Parisian hospital. I had also worked at the Samu in the service of Professor Huguenard, at the Mondor hospital. From this immersion, I published the book Linens of the night which sold nearly a million copies in 1974 (reissued by Michel Lafon in 2021).

Exhausted staff

Hospital of fifty years ago or ultramodern hospital, the problems are always the same: lack of qualified personnel, lack of credit, the gap is widening between the technique of cutting-edge medicine and the means made available to it.

After the release of the book, I had met the director of Public Assistance in a televised face-to-face. We agreed on all points! Everyone is in agreement, except the governments which follow each other and which, at best, do not budge.

Many of us had, over the years, testified to the lamentable state of health. During all this time, no leader wanted to hear. If the 2020 pandemic has changed anything, it’s bad: the staff is exhausted. The state has abandoned them all, caregivers and patients alike.

My misadventure is a daily story in the hospital in France. My fate is that of millions of Parisians and French people.

A voice

Those who know me know that I have never asked for a free pass in my entire life. My age doesn’t change that. But I noticed that it was almost an aggravating circumstance, for two reasons:

1. It was judged that I was too old to be worth taking care of (a reflex taken during the Covid epidemic?).

2. As soon as I spoke, people thought I was a spoiler and they immediately suggested that I was talking nonsense… so don’t bother listening to me.

Yet I have a voice. A voice that has never attacked the staff. It won’t change. Obviously, I’m in pain, but I’m going to keep fighting, as usual.

Me, I’m lucky, I have friends and fellow journalists. But all these poor people who have no one, what can they do? When we enter the infernal circuit, when we are sucked into the nothingness of emergencies, we cannot come out unscathed. Sometimes you don’t even come out alive… The liberal nurse who comes to my home told me that it had happened to one of his patients three weeks ago.

If I can be their voice – as Aubrac asked me to be one of the Resistance – then I will be. I still have a little strength, it’s to give it!


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