Coronavirus: who are the “health brigades”?

Published by Elodie D. · Updated on 4 May 2020 at 17h24 · Published on 2 May 2020 at 15h05
To lead confinement properly, the French government creates “health brigades” entrusted with finding all people who have been in touch with a coronavirus-infected person. But who are those detectives and how do they work on a daily basis?

Protecting, isolating, testing: this is a strong statement from the Prime Minister following deconfinement plan. In a nutshell, this is the upcoming job the health brigades that are being created everywhere across France. To make deconfinement smooth this May 11th, and to avoid a second wave (let’s be honest), health brigades will have to keep a close eye on potentially sick people and their entourage.

We already heard about those “guardian angel brigades” that had to call vacationers at the Contamines-Montjoie ski resort (Haute-Savoie) to let them know about the covid-19 risk. This time, the staff necessary to deconfinement will be much bigger.

At the moment, brigades with 5,000 officers from the Assurance Maladie (Health Insurance) employed to find people passed by COVID-19 sick. According to the Scientific Council President, Jean-François Delfraissy, 30,000 people will be required, among them: “general practitioners, caregivers, members of associations, health services from city halls…. Without them, it will not work”. Regional Prefects will have to call in or not for volunteers, officers recruited in “territorial health organizations and other institutional partners, by way of delegation” the Assurance Maladie says.

Sorts of detectives, then, who will come and tell you your neighbor is sick, and you may catch coronavirus. Interviewed by LCI, the Assurance Maladie explained the process. In concrete words, as soon as a COVID+ is detected, GPs will have to put up a list of people who have been in touch with this patient “and assess with them if the contact is such that the “contact person” is likely to have caught the virus”.

Then, this first list will enter a “contact tracing” file that can be read by the health brigade officers. They will have to contact all people who have been in touch with the patient these past 24 hours and test them (PCR test), make list of the people they may have contaminate too and determine if a two-week quarantine is necessary “whether they show COVID-19-like symptoms or not”!

As for the Regional Health Agencies (ARS), they will look at the evolution of the epidemic in each department and make sure tests ordered are performed properly.

Remains the question of confidential data. As a matter of fact, health brigades will be made of non-health caregivers, which goes against the medical confidentiality principle.
As for the government, a health security bill is being prepared to set the principles of the contact tracing files. It will be subject to debate at the National Assembly and the Senate at the same time as the extension of the health emergency!

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