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27 Apr, 2020 13:51

Covid-19 mortality in French intensive care units THREE to FOUR TIMES HIGHER than official figures – report

Covid-19 mortality in French intensive care units THREE to FOUR TIMES HIGHER than official figures – report

The number of people dying of the novel coronavirus in French intensive care units could be between three and four times higher than the figure provided by the French government, Le Monde newspaper reports, citing a new study.

Between 30 and 40 percent of all Covid-19 patients, who are transferred to intensive care units and are put on ventilators in France, are dying, a new study by the European Research Network on Artificial Ventilation (REVA) suggests. This figure is several times higher than the data revealed by Jerome Salomon, the director general for health, a high-ranking official within the French interior ministry.

Back in mid-April, Salomon said that the mortality rate in French intensive care units is only ten percent. Now, these estimates are disputed by a collaborative clinical research network uniting up to 200 intensive care centers across France and financed under the health ministry’s own hospital clinical research program (PHRC).

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As of Sunday, 4,682 Covid-19 patients were treated in intensive care units across France. The study conducted by REVA involved an analysis of 1,000 similar cases of patients who were treated between March 28 and April 25.

Matthieu Schmidt, an intensivist at one of Europe’s largest hospitals – Pitie-Salpetriere University Hospital in Paris – and a REVA coordinator, described the mortality rate as “a huge figure.” The medics are still evaluating some data provided by several centers and the eventual figures could be slightly adjusted. The general trend is unlikely to change and Schmidt described it as “indicative” of the situation in French intensive care.

“We have never seen such death rates,” he told Le Monde, adding that the mortality rate during the 2009 swine flu outbreak stood at 25 percent even “with the most serious cases.” He added, however, that Covid-19-linked figures might not be a result of the French health system’s shortcomings but rather an indication that the novel coronavirus causes a severe complex pathology, which is not limited to pneumonia alone.

Apart from causing pulmonary organs failure, the disease also causes severe inflammation and affects the vascular system and kidneys, the doctor said.

The government figures were based on data received from March 16 to April 12, the French media reported. At that time, the Covid-19 death rate in French intensive care units was indeed close to ten percent. Yet, only slightly more than a half of all intensive care patients were put on ventilators then. By the time of the REVA study this figure had grown to 80 percent.

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Tai Pham, a resuscitator at the Bicetre hospital in the southern suburb of the French capital, said the ministry’s data reflects the situation at the very beginning of the epidemic, when the fate of many intensive care patients was still unknown. He also noted that patients suffering from less severe symptoms were admitted to intensive care at that time, contributing to a lower mortality rate.

Professor Djillali Annane, from a hospital located in another Paris suburb, also called the ministry’s data “premature.” Still, even the information provided by REVA could not be considered as a final assessment. The French medics will need a “long-term study” that could take up to a year to conduct, they said.

To date, France has seen more than 125,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. Almost 45,000 have since recovered while over 22,800 people have died nationwide.

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