The Covid-19 outbreak has claimed its first fatality in the French medical profession, a 68-year-old A&E doctor who was retired but kept coming into work in order to help his colleagues.
Jean-Jacques Razafindranazy, who worked on an emergency ward in Compiègne, in the Oise département, where France’s first coronavirus cluster was recorded this month, died on Saturday at Lille university hospital.
Razafindranazy’s family announced his death in a social media post titled “My father: a hero”. His son told Le Parisien newspaper that his father was retired and could have stopped working but did not because his colleagues were so overworked.
“He sacrificed himself,” the unnamed son said. “He wanted to help. He kept working because he loved it, it was his life. It’s not fair. We are sad and angry.”
The mayor of Compiègne, Philippe Marini, said the town had lost “a fine doctor, a man both respected and much liked by his team.”
France’s health minister, Olivier Véran, himself a qualified medical doctor, said on French television that he shared the family’s grief, and he acknowledged “the very heavy price” being paid by the profession in the struggle against the virus. The outbreak has so far killed 562 people in France and a further 6,172 are in hospital, a quarter of them in a serious condition in intensive care.
“I would like to emphasise the extraordinary courage of all the doctors, the nurses, the first responders – of everyone who is allowing us to save lives every single day,” Véran said.
It is not yet clear how Razafindranazy became infected with the virus, but Le Parisien reported that he had seen patients at a very beginning of the outbreak when precautions were not as strict. The Compiègne hospital had to place several of its staff in quarantine after patients were not treated with proper precautions.
Despite a controversy about a lack of protective masks for medical staff, Véran said most who contracted the virus would be infected outside of their work. Protection for frontline staff was “absolutely indispensable”, he said, but there had been several cases of doctors and nurses falling ill while equipped with masks.
Razafindranazy’s son said his father had returned from a holiday abroad “on top form” at the end of February and fell ill at the beginning of March. “He came back from a shift exhausted and became ill very quickly,” the son said.
A colleague on the Compiègne emergency ward said staff were upset but remained determined. “This is a really serious situation,” the colleague told local media. “We did not ask to die. We accept our responsibilities, of course, but the public does not yet realise how serious the situation is.”