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UK Flu Victims So Numerous, Some
Being  Sent To French Hospitals
 
By Martin Wallace in Calais
http://www.the-sun.co.uk/news/2486936

1-7-99
 
            A crisis-hit NHS (England) hospital has begged French
            doctors to treat British flu victims on the other side of the
            Channel.
 
            The desperate SOS was sent to a Calais hospital as
            London ran out of intensive care beds - and only a handful
            remained across the rest of Britain.
 
            Last night the French consultant who revealed the plea, Dr
            Herve Peneau, said: "We have never been asked to help in
            this way before so the problem in the UK must be very
            bad."
 
            Dr Peneau, who runs the intensive care unit at Saint Pierre
            hospital in Calais, had to turn down the request because all
            his beds were occupied. But he promised to help if any
            become available.
 
            The 52-year-old consultant said: "I was phoned by a
            London physician on Wednesday asking me to take some
            of his patients as he had no beds left and was struggling to
            find one anywhere. He told me the nearest empty bed to
            him was way up in Edinburgh, and we are much closer.
 
            "I wasn't surprised to get the call because I'd heard about
            Britain's flu epidemic. But sadly I couldn't help."
 
            Dr Peneau also revealed that a Health Department official
            contacted him yesterday to ask if he had admitted any
            Brits after the Government learned of the unnamed
            London hospital's plea. Ailing flu victims could be whisked
            by train from London to Calais through the Channel
            Tunnel in under two hours.
 
            The 125-mile journey would take a fraction of the time
            needed to transfer a patient to Edinburgh, 420 miles away.
 
            The French connection emerged 24 hours after The Sun
            told how packed NHS hospitals were buckling under the
            strain of the nationwide flu epidemic.
 
            Many victims have developed more serious chest
            conditions like pneumonia. Experts have warned the crisis
            could last another three weeks - and the number flattened
            by the bug continued to rise yesterday.
 
            Dr Peneau supervises ten intensive care beds, six casualty
            beds and six paediatric beds in the eight-storey Saint
            Pierre.
 
            He said: "Thankfully we don't have an epidemic here but
            the beds are full because we are always busy this time of
            the year. "I'm not surprised there are no beds in Britain
            because the problem is so bad."
 
            He added: "As we are in the north of France and our
            communications are good, it makes sense to send patients
            here from England if we have the space. We often get
            similar requests for help from Belgium."
 
            The 1,000-bed hospital was opened in 1975. But French
            health chiefs say it is too old and overcrowded. And it is
            due to be closed and replaced by a modern infirmary
            costing £44million.
 
            Last night the Health Department said doctors were free to
            "make phone calls and ask for help whenever they like."
 
            But a spokesman added: "We are not in the business of
            trying to make transfers overseas and would rather make
            provision for treating patients in this country."
 
            For the second day running, there were only 11 intensive
            care beds available across the whole of Britain yesterday.
 
            At some hospitals, doctors had to use theatre recovery
            rooms to treat seriously ill patients.
 
            The Health Department insisted the NHS is coping better
            than it did during last winter's fiasco even though it is
            under more pressure.
 
            And the new 24-hour help-line NHS Direct, staffed by
            nurses, is helping to ease the burden on doctors.
 
            It has taken 160,000 calls since Christmas. And in more
            than 50,000 cases, nurses were able to tell patients how to
            help themselves. The number is 0845 4647.
 
            FLU victims went vinda-loony yesterday after The Sun
            told how eating spicy curries can beat the bug.
 
            Readers rushed to follow the hot tip given by Professor
            Ron Eccles of the Common Cold Centre, Cardiff.
 
            All major supermarket chains reported ready-made Indian
            meals being snatched off shelves.
 
            A Somerfield spokeswoman said: "Like people's
            temperatures, sales of our takeaway curries have been
            soaring."
 
            And Sainsbury's sold more than 50,000 curries yesterday,
            up 15 per cent.
 
            Darren Smith the firm's curry buyer, said: "There has
            been an incredible response to the Prof Eccles' advice. In
            some stores customers have been clearing our shelves."
 
            Prof Eccles said: "There has been a scientific study into
            the effects of curries " and they really do work.
 

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