At Arras hospital, a generation of cardiologists dies and another leaves

Posted today at 6:00 a.m.

A few months ago, under the fire of a violent cluster which swept through his establishment, the head of the cardiology department of the Arras hospital center, Géry Hannebicque, however severely tested, made this observation: “It is not the Covid-19 that will kill the public hospital. It’s medical demography. ” Understand: the lack of doctors from which certain specialties, such as cardiology, suffer in hospitals in medium-sized towns in Hauts-de-France.

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At the end of September, the finding is concrete. “In a month, we will lose Doctor Paquet”, testifies the 62-year-old practitioner, who strides through the corridors of the hospital. His emergency “beep” in his pocket, he goes around the hospitalized patients before an afternoon of consultations which will not end before 8 pm.

Caregivers can monitor patients' heart rates from the care station in the cardiology department of Arras hospital on September 29, 2021.
Doctor Géry Hannebicque, who heads the cardiology department of the Arras hospital center, September 29, 2021.

With approximately one doctor leaving per year, his department – six full-time cardiologists and one angiologist – is still in a delicate balance. But for how long ? “We have never reached the ten doctors we would need, but, for several years, we have gone down a notch in the shortage of staff”, he sums up.

The departure of Doctor Pierre Paquet, scheduled for November, was compensated by the recruitment, at the start of the school year, of two Moroccan doctors who came to train for a year while providing their work force. “But we already know that, in a year, another cardiologist has planned to leave”, resumes Géry Hannebicque, torn by the anguish that the “Service breaks the mouth”, especially when he starts to ” lift the foot ” and that his generation will pass the baton.

In the cardiology department of Arras hospital, September 29, 2021.
On leaving the Arras hospital center, September 29, 2021.

The Nord and Pas-de-Calais, well connected since the 1970s, have already seen some services close, while the needs of an aging population and severely affected by obesity or diabetes increase. “In Béthune, cardiology closed in 2018, reminds the doctor from Arras. In Douai, the service operates under a perfusion from the Lille University Hospital … Rest Lens, which has a strong attractiveness, with a high-level technical platform, but even they have two departures of practitioners in sight at the end of the year.

Cardiologist Claire Seunes (right) and two nurses in the intensive care unit of the cardiology department at Arras hospital, September 29, 2021.

At the root of the staff shortage, there is a “Scissor effect” which affects many specialties, between the lack of doctors in the labor market attributed to the tightening of the numerus clausus thirty years ago in the faculties of medicine and the numerous retirements, recalls the director of the Arras hospital, Philippe Merlaud.

The situation seems critical among cardiologists, with a demographic change “Quite dramatic” in the region, according to a study by the Lille University Hospital in 2018, aggravated by a “Significant poaching by the private sector”, especially young doctors.

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