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Ula bin Himd : “We work with our heart”

France has about 297,000 doctors on its territory, including a contingent of about 28,000 foreigners. Several are on the front line in the fight against coronavirus. Among them: Ula bin Himd. At the age of 35, this Saudi intern in plastic and maxillofacial surgery at the Hôpital Necker-Enfants malade in Paris is mobilized alongside her French colleagues to welcome and care for the sick. She recounts her daily life...

What impact does the current health crisis have on you as a plastic surgery intern?

The “white plan” was launched on the 6th of March 2020, in hospitals within the most affected regions as the epidemic unfolded. It was extended to all hospitals in France on the 13th of March, proving as an absolute necessity to confront the coronavirus pandemic. This means surgical interns, for example, may find themselves doing the work of an anesthesiologist, nurse or caregiver, or carrying out activities far different from their usual ones.

What is the current situation in your hospital?

Recommendations in the hospital have evolved based on both science and field observations. Operations were cancelled until May 10th to accommodate the growing influx of patients coming in with the novel coronavirus. In regards to consultations, points were made to sort out the patients: those who must be seen imperatively, those for whom a consultation could potentially be postponed to a few months later, and those who can wait regardless.

Are you equipped to handle the influx of patients?

At the onset of the crisis, surgical masks disappeared, and then we started receiving some as we went along. We had a limited number of masks and hydro-alcoholic gels and were still well protected by FFP2 masks, goggles, gowns, gloves whenever in direct contact with suspected Covid-19 and Covid-19 confirmed patients.

Have you noticed an improvement in the health situation?

The situation was tense during the second and third weeks of confinement, with a spike in activity at Necker on April 6th with 56 hospitalized patients, 40 of whom were in the adult sector and 16 in pediatrics. 26 patients were hospitalized in intensive care resulting in two deaths. But the situation is slowly improving with a decrease in intensive care admissions and more discharges.

How are you personally handling this crisis?

The situation is not very easy but once we are well protected, we work without hesitation, we work with our heart because our end goal is to properly treat and relieve the patients to help them overcome this difficult period.

As a Saudi citizen in France, have you considered repatriation to Saudi Arabia?

The Saudi Arabian Cultural Office, with the Embassy and the Consulate, have been in direct contact with Saudi nationals in France and specifically with Saudi doctors. As Saudi medics, they have encouraged us to stay, work and help our French colleagues in the face of this health and economic crisis, which reflects the Franco-Saudi friendly alliance. Furthermore, it confirms how Saudi doctors conducting their specialty training in French hospitals are treated exactly the same as French doctors.