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Tamil healthcare workers on the COVID-19 frontline - France

With thousands of deaths from coronavirus across France, we look at some of the Tamils healthcare workers the frontlines of the battle to save lives.

From nurses and doctors to our paramedics and porters, every single contribution is invaluable. And alongside thousands of other workers, the Tamil community has been actively involved in efforts to fight the pandemic.

Throughout this month we will update the page to bring you testimonies from those on the frontline.


Tulasiga Ratnam, Doctor, Paris

I work in the emergency department of Lariboisière Hospital in Paris. What I am going to tell you is the reality of my experience as a doctor. Lariboisière hospital is famous because of the diversity of its patients - from the elite of the city to the many immigrants, homeless people and drug addicts we normally get around 250-300 patients per day. A normal shift as a doctor is 10-12 hours of work in four different units. Since COVID-19 arrived, the emergency department has deeply changed. In the beginning of the pandemic, we kept one of the units of the Emergency Department for suspected COVID-19 patients only. But little by little 3 of the 4 units became COVID 19 suspect units.

It is not just the ED, the whole hospital is reorganising. Routinely planned surgeries and consultations are cancelled and many departments have closed in order to keep the maximum of beds for serious COVID infected patients. Medical specialists have left their specialities and come to help as internal medicine doctors in COVID and non-COVID unit. Personally, I had the coronavirus infection but I am now safe. But at that time I had to go work because of the lack of doctors.

It’s a really strange feeling to deal with a new disease. It’s like we are fighting with a enemy that we don't really know. But we learn as we go. In the beginning we didn't know how virulent this virus is. Now we know that it can be severe, in elderly people and in youngsters. The most difficult is when we have to make life or death decisions on patients. Sometimes patients aged around 70-80 years come in with respiratory failure needing intubation and mechanical ventilation. But the lack of spaces in our resuscitation units, not only in our hospital but in all hospitals in France, means we have to make difficult choices. Many of these elderly patients might have received ventilation in a non-pandemic period but unfortunately, in these times, a lack of resources means we cannot care for all patients the same way. Even for patients who come in with non COVID related illnesses, for them many serious diagnoses are forgotten because of the pressure and the coronavirus environment.

I want to finish my experience by saying this. Please don’t think that the virus can attack only other people and not you or your relatives. Everybody has to be concerned. We don't see the virus but it is present everywhere. So please respect the containment measures and protect others.  It's a real war.

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