Mobile clinics tend to vulnerable people living on the streets of Paris

By Ángel Calvo

Paris, Apr 3 (efe-epa).- Mobile medical clinics in Paris are providing help to the city’s homeless, who are one of the most vulnerable groups in the coronavirus pandemic given their precarious healthcare situation and the isolation measures implemented by the government.

Julien Aron, a doctor with one of these clinics rolled out by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) this week, tells Efe the service tends to “many marginalized patients, without documents or access to medical attention.”

Aron says 40 or 50 people who turned up to a clinic set up in the Paris neighborhood of Barbes had underlying health conditions such as skin diseases and infections.

“There are patients who have chronic illnesses like asthma, lung problems or diabetes who have not been receiving treatment. This makes them more vulnerable to a virus like Covid-19.”

Homeless people are given the same hygiene advice as everyone else, but it can often be harder for them to stick to the guidelines.

“To wash your hands, you must have access to soap and water.”

A line of about a dozen people forms outside the clinic. Patients first carry out a survey with the nurse, who decides whether they go in for further testing.

The team sends suspected Covid-19 samples for lab testing, a process carried out for 40 patients who came to the clinic on Thursday, according to MSF medical coordinator, Emilie Fourrey.

Fourrey says one of the main issues was that the tests take hours to show conclusive results, during which time many of the patients have returned to the street.

“They don’t have anywhere to go and sleep, which means they can’t isolate themselves. Some emergency accommodation has been set up, but not everyone can get a space.”

According to the latest data from Paris officials, there were 3,500 people sleeping rough in the French capital last year, although the NGO said there could be as many as 5,000.

Philippe, who lives in Barbes, is one of those waiting in line for his consultation. He says he saw the service when he was heading to the shops and decided to use it because he had a sore head. Due to his diabetes, he is vulnerable to the coronavirus.

“I don’t think the headache is coronavirus, but I would rather they confirmed it.”

He says he did not want to bother his usual doctor with an appointment.

A considerable amount of those coming to the clinic are from immigrant backgrounds or are homeless. Some are staying in the emergency accommodation set up by the government.

Around 700 people who were staying at improvised refugee camps in the city have been relocated to these temporary shelters.

Anthropologist Jean-François Véran, who also works at the mobile clinic, says he has noticed people sliding “from poverty to misery” since the lockdown was enforced.

One of the reasons for that is a reduction in the number of food deliveries as many older charity volunteers are forced to stay at home.

Public toilets are also closed and many local residents who would offer help to homeless people no longer venture out.

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