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Racing Goes Safer Foundation COVID-19 Report From France

Published on Wed, Apr 15, 2020

By: Doug Stokes

“It is great to see that our medical team in the Le Mans race
is so much involved in this fight against COVID-19”–  Claude Meistelman MD, PhD
 Dr. Claude Meistelman is a longtime Stand 21 Safety Foundation Board Member who is most familiar to us as DCMO medical director at LeMans, CMO for the Paris Grand Prix Formula E race, and a motorsports researcher/lecturer.  With the COVID-19 crisis, he is totally focused on his duties in intensive care at the Brabois University Hospital, Université de Lorraine, France.The doctor recently contacted Foundation President Yves Morizot with an update on what is happening on the front lines of the COVID virus fight in France. The following is his report from 5 April 2020:“The East part of France (Lorraine, Alsace) is the most concerning region along with Paris for the COVID epidemic. We observed 3 weeks ago a fast spread of the epidemic after a large evangelist gathering in Mulhouse. Mulhouse and Colmar were the first medical centers concerned before Strasbourg University Hospital. By chance, it gave us the advantage to have an extra week to organize our tertiary care university hospital in Nancy. We are ruling 2 major hospitals and we were able to increase the number of ICU beds from approximately 50 to 120 beds. In the meantime, in Brabois University Hospital in Nancy, we moved from 20 operating rooms (OR) to 4 OR for emergency cases. Therefore it was not too complicated to use the OR ventilators and anesthesia monitors to open extra ICU beds. Moreover, our post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) was transformed into an ICU unit.In France, you must be aware that more than 80% of the physicians involved in ICU are anesthesiologists. In our training we have to spend 2 years as a resident in the ICU. Therefore most of our staff members are full time now in the ICU units. Moreover, we have a great anesthesia nurses team. They have been very supportive and thanks to them we were able to open very rapidly these extra ICU beds.Since the beginning of the epidemic more than 1600 patients were admitted to ICUs in the Eastern part of France but the peak occurred in Alsace rather than in Lorraine and contrary to Alsace and Paris we were not too much concerned by a shortage of ICU beds.From a medical point of view, it is obvious that most of the patients have severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and remain longer in the ICU than other patients. Most of these patients need a deep level of sedation. it creates a state of anxiety for the clinician due to a fear of being short of some anesthetic drugs. Up to now, with the help of our pharmacist, we have not been too much concerned by such an issue.The good news and we hope a confirmation this week is that the number of patients admitted in the ICU decreased over the last 3 days. It is likely that the confinement is producing the first beneficial effects.Let’s go back to motorsports.  As a DCMO at le Mans, I know that the season will not start before June or likely July. However, I am still in frequent contact with my 3 other CMO (Chief Medical Officer) colleagues in Le Mans (Dominique Vivier, Slimane Saci, and Nicolas Picard). They all work West of France and were less concerned up to now by the COVID-19 epidemic.  We share our experience, our data and the protocols set up in Nancy University Hospital. It is a great opportunity to be still in touch and to share experience.Moreover, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) which is ruling Le Mans racetrack was very supportive and keen to transfer to Le Mans hospital the ventilators and the monitors of the racetrack medical center. Several physicians working in our medical team in Le Mans give extra time to Le Mans hospital and its ICU. It is great to see that our medical team in Le Mans race is so much involved in this fight against the COVID-19. I am looking forward to seeing all these great people back on the race track for the 2020 season opening. You will hear from us then.”

Claude Meistelman, MD, PhDProfessor of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine
Brabois University Hospital, Université de Lorraine, France
CMO, Paris Grand Prix Formula E, DCMO, Le Mans

We wish to thank all the health care workers around the world who are working in harm’s way to fight this epidemic and to recognize when we can, the many contributions from members of the motorsports community.Don Taylor
Director, Stand 21 Safety Foundation

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