Outside, “it’s civil war”, warn doctors in Nouméa

A hospital “under siege” in a city transformed into a “battlefield”. For three days, scenes of unprecedented violence between independence demonstrators, police and civil militias have shaken Nouméa. The most recent report shows four deaths, including a gendarme, while the state of emergency was decreed by Emmanuel Macron this Wednesday.

Alongside four of his colleagues from the gynecology department of the Caledonian hospital, Florian Chay is not afraid to use the word “civil war”. “From the moment there are neighborhood militias fighting with the demonstrators, I think the term is not an exaggeration,” he justifies.

Dangerous dams

These doctors, as well as “a pool of medical and paramedical staff, have been running the hospital in a degraded manner for 48 hours” and have not been able to leave the walls of the hospital center, located slightly outside the city. The police are in fact overwhelmed and cannot ensure the protection of the establishment and its staff 24 hours a day. In the opposite direction, no relay can enter, at least without taking personal risk on the road. “In terms of human resources, it’s starting to become difficult because we all have physical limits,” says gynecologist Clothilde Dechanet.

Florian Chay personally took the risk of joining his colleagues on Wednesday afternoon (around 7 a.m. Paris time). He hid in an ambulance with four other practitioners to take as few risks as possible. “The paramedics knew they could get through the roadblocks, but after us, they no longer let anyone through because it became too dangerous,” he explains. And when he reached the starting point on a motorbike – the GIGN barracks – he “caught stones and concrete blocks”.

Food rationing

The concern on the other end of the line grows as the hour progresses, with no solution emerging despite discussions with the institution every six hours; professionals are forced to ration food, medicines and care products. “We have food for the caregivers until tomorrow evening, a little more for the patients. We count the medicines, the blood bags, the compresses, because soon we won’t have any more. Regarding supplies for the operation of the hospital, it’s complicated,” warns Florian Chay. The gynecologist does not mince his words and believes that the site is in a “state of siege”.

We count the medicines, the blood bags, the compresses” »

The building was even targeted during the night, according to Clothilde Dechanet. Around 4 a.m., she spoke of an attempted assault on the hospital that was repelled by security. “They also tried to enter the pharmacy to ransack it,” she assures. “In Nouméa, half of the businesses are burned, including pharmacies, schools, colleges, town halls, buildings which normally should not suffer damage,” adds Cécile Boulet, doctor in the pediatrics and neonatology department.

A battlefield “

On the way, hidden in the ambulance, Florian Chay saw the city pass before his eyes. A real “battlefield”: “There is one building in two that is burned, cars still smoking, people occupying the roundabouts, people walking around with Molotov cocktails in their hands, supermarkets looted … I have never seen that “.

According to these cloistered doctors, no one is safe. The rioters “don’t look at who they hit,” says Florian Chay, according to whom “even patients” are targeted. “A lady almost stayed there because it was impossible to organize her transport to the hospital for surgery. We had to repatriate her with the army helicopter which ended up passing and bringing her to us but within an hour, she was dead,” he says. At the Gaston-Bourret center, the hall was transformed into a reception area for eight women and their newborns. They could return home if there was no risk of being attacked outside. These patients “who do not seek care are too afraid to leave”, testifies Cécile Boulet.

I’m afraid the house will be looted” »

Exhausted, the doctors are now waiting for a solution to return home. “I have my husband and my son who are outside, when I don’t have news, I’m stressed. I am afraid that the house will be looted, attacked, we are very afraid for our families,” confides Clothilde Dechanet. “We have no visibility on the time frame for returning home, under what conditions, and it’s really very, very distressing,” insists Cécile Boulet. Everyone makes it clear that they do not want to criticize or take a position, but are calling for a near clarification.

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