In Toulouse, an SAMU unit treats the French who sail the seas of the globe

It is a small place that does not look like much, nestled in the heart of the university hospital center (CHU) of Purpan, in Toulouse. It consists of just three computer screens, headsets, a world map hanging on the wall, and a few magazines reminiscent of navigation lying on a desk. However, in this building called Louis-Lareng (1923-2019), named after the Toulouse professor who created the SAMU in 1968, the medical cases of all French navigators, or sailing under the French flag, around the world are treated.

Every year, the maritime medical consultation center (CCMM) receives more than 6,000 calls. Created in 1968 and formalized within the SAMU of Haute-Garonne by interministerial instruction of April 29, 1983, relating to the operational organization of medical aid at sea, the service, permanent and free, provides consultations and telemedical assistance for crew members, passengers or simple occupants of the ship.

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“The teleconsultation of emergency medicine, but also of general medicine and specialized medicine, is based, in addition to the clinical data transmitted by the care manager on board, on the remote transmission of medical data such as digital images, videos or electrocardiograms », specifies the head of the unit, Professor Patrick Roux.

Bobology”, anxieties, fractures, entrails, cases of Covid-19, here, sometimes several thousand kilometers away, we must “treat and not send resources, as the SAMU does”, prosecute the emergency doctor, who has thirty years of regulation to his credit.

The captain, main interlocutor

At the end of July, an intense period of navigation, the emergency doctor Alexandre Saccavini is in charge of receiving calls, like the other doctors in the unit, all week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. On weekends, the SAMU 31 reception and call control center, in a large room next door, takes over.

On Monday, Doctor Roux, on duty, in a treatise of about thirty. This afternoon, it is the great calm. Only the Moby-Dick, a sailboat sailing off the coast of Croatia, and the Aven bridge, passenger ship between Spain and England, dialed 196 – the number for emergencies at sea – or the ten-digit number for the centre. “It is the regional operational surveillance and rescue centers that receive the calls and transmit them to us obligatorily”, explains Doctor Saccavini.

There are five in France and four in the overseas departments. On the telephone, it is the master of the ship (trawlers, sailboats, merchant navy, ferries) who must be the interlocutor. Situations can sometimes be confusing. “We can talk to a French commander sailing on a Danish ship in the waters of the Adriatic”, emphasizes Doctor Roux. Or, like the previous week, with a French tourist on a Norwegian ship heading for the North Pole. This had to be evacuated. Because if the first mission of the CCMM is to make a diagnosis, then to treat and prescribe directly, other situations can prove to be more cumbersome to manage.

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