March 24, 2023
Caregivers will board a Pilatus PC-12, chartered by the Swiss company Fly7. FELIX KAESTLE / DPA / AFP

Eight caregivers will fly to Nièvre on Thursday to lend a hand to this department described as a “medical desert”.

In Australia, they are nicknamed the “flying doctors“. These doctors who bring medical aid by air in the desert territories where the population does not have access to care. “We are not there yet in the Nièvre“, reassures Jean-François Segovia, director general of the hospital center of the agglomeration of Nevers and the hospital group of territory of the department. But for the first time, Thursday January 26, caregivers will be flown from Dijon to Nevers, to compensate for the cruel lack of manpower that is hitting this region marked as a “medical desert“.

At first glance, this trip seems incongruous: the two cities are separated by less than 150 kilometers as the crow flies. The plane, chartered by the Swiss company Fly7, will not spend more than 35 minutes in the air. On board, eight caregivers of various specializations will take place: cardiologist, orthopedic surgeon, general practitioner, gynecological surgeon, nuclear medicine specialist, pulmonologist… This curious troop will take off from Dijon at 8 a.m. and will leave at 6 p.m. from Nevers.

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Many medical sectors in tension

The issue is simple. The hospital center of the agglomeration of Nevers lacks about thirty doctors and about fifty non-medical personnel. More generally, Nièvre has one general practitioner for 2,000 patients, where the national average is one for 864. An emblematic example of this desertification: “There are no dermatologists in the Nièvrebreathes Jean-François Segovia. If you have a pimple attack, want to find an acne treatment for your teenager, you have to change department“.

The Nièvre no longer counts the medical disciplines in tension: oncology, child psychiatry, addictology, general medicine… “All this is carried over to our emergencies and there is an accumulation of stretchers“, laments the director of the Nevers hospital. To compensate, the hospital center usually brings in around twenty doctors a month from Dijon. But the trip, lasting 3h30 by car, discourages most candidates and strains all volunteers. The train, which joins the two cities in just over two hours, will soon no longer be an option: the line will close between July 2023 and March 2024 for renovation.

The hospital is therefore obliged to resort en masse to temporary workers, who costbetween 1000and 3000euros» the session, according to the mayor of Nevers, Denis Thuriot. For a total cost of 3.5 million euros per year, which greatly contributes to the annual deficit of 6 million euros recorded by the structure.

A line soon to be made permanent?

This surprising journey by plane is therefore doubly interesting for Nevers. The mayor of the city hopes that he will participate in attracting new carers, and in particular young people, so far put off by the travel time which restricts their social and family life. But he also countssave money by spending“. This flight, although brief, is expensive:5200 euros for the round trip, i.e. 650 euros per passenger“, calculates Denis Thuriot. For the time being, if the town hall has “the support of the ARS and the CHU“, no financing is materialized. But this new airline will ultimately make it possible to save on temporary workers if it becomes permanent.

This is also the project of the mayor of Nevers, who is already working on a new flight next Thursday. “We could imagine at least a weekly flight, or one every two days“, he confides. And to make this line even more attractive, “I risk opening it quickly to professionals and the general public“, announces the city councilor, who will soon launch “a public call in the world of business and communities“. The Fly7 company has the means: if the plane chartered Thursday has only eight seats, the company has devices capable of boarding up to 72 people.

Unsurprisingly, environmentalists in the region have not missed the opportunity to criticize the carbon footprint of such a journey. “But when we talk for nothing, we spend CO2 for nothing“, ironically Denis Thuriot, who believes that”planes are made to fly“. Also, the Pilatus PC-12 aircraft used for this flight (also by the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service)”consumes 65%less kerosene than a conventional plane“, argues Jean-François Segovia. And the cars that travel seven hours a week between Dijon and Nevers are also polluting. Finally, these considerations do not matter to the mayor of Nevers. The city councilor may be sensitive to the environmental issue, “health is a priority“.

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