Agnes Buzyn responded on Tuesday, June 30, to questions from members of the committee of inquiry charged with shedding light on the management of the coronavirus health crisis. A hearing under high tension that the former Minister of Health, then unsuccessful candidate for mayor of Paris, had meticulously prepared before the second round of the elections. For more than three hours, this oncologist by training, who assured on January 23 – while she was still Minister of Health – that France was “Extremely well prepared” was invited to comment on the country’s preparedness for the risks of a pandemic.
On mask stocks
Appointed Minister of Health in May 2017, Mme Buzyn was in office when Jérôme Salomon ordered, in the fall of 2018, the destruction of more than 600 million surgical masks from the strategic stock. After this decision, only an order of 100 million had been placed in 2019, far from what would have been necessary to replenish the stock of 1 billion recommended by the experts to face a pandemic.
The ” inventory management “ masks “Does not go back to the level of the minister”, defended herself Mme Buzyn, however ensuring “Assume fully” the decisions taken by its departments between May 2017 and February 2020. “The vigilance that I must have is on dozens of products”, she insisted. And to add that if the attention was “A posteriori” on the issue of masks, iodine tablets in the event of a nuclear accident or protective gear against the Ebola virus were not subjects “Less important”.
The former minister also assured that he was not aware of the letter sent by Public Health France to the general directorate of health in September 2018 which informed in particular of the expiration of a large part of the strategic state stock of masks and recommended buying this equipment to bring the stock to 1 billion masks.
She added that it was also not she who had made the decision to destroy the masks deemed non-compliant when the stock had not yet been reconstituted. “I totally trust him and I take full responsibility for the decisions he makes”, she said of the director general of health, Mr. Salomon, whom she appointed in 2018.
On the role of Public Health France
The former minister, on the other hand, criticized in hollow the role of the France Public Health agency, responsible for the management of protective equipment.
“We all want to request” the role of health agencies, she said, saying that “Questions” existed on the “Inventory control” these last years. “Learn in 2018 that a large part of the stocks are expired … It requires asking how it worked”, she said.
On his resignation at the start of the crisis
The former minister had chosen to leave the department in a hurry on February 16 to wear the colors of the majority, La République en Marche (LRM), in the municipal elections in Paris. Asked about her departure, she explained:
“I am leaving the ministry on February 16. There have been no new cases in France for nine days. (…) The Republic on the march no longer has a candidate for the Paris City Hall. I feel that I have done my job in preparing the health system. (…) I leave the ministry with the feeling that I have made the right preparations. “
On his controversial interview with “Le Monde”
Disastrous by the health crisis, the former minister returned for The world, in the aftermath of the first round of municipal elections, on his campaign in Paris and his departure from the government. In particular, she claimed to have “Alerted the director general of health” from December 20 and “Sent a message to the president on the situation” January 11. “When I left the ministry, she assured in The world, I was crying because I knew the tsunami wave was ahead of us. I left knowing that the elections would not take place. “
“When the reporter calls me, I firmly believe that the second round cannot be held,” she explained to parliamentarians. “I did not read these words again. These reports were not submitted to me. “ Before adding:
“I had spent a terrible day. I was very tired. I was accused on social media of not having seen anything coming. It’s quite the opposite. I fought for a month. (…) What I said to “Mwave” that day was “stop saying I haven’t seen anything ”. I have seen everything. This article suggests that I have not prepared “.
On France’s level of preparedness for the pandemic
More broadly, Mme Buzyn has repeatedly denied his ministry’s lack of anticipation. “I have experience of health risks through my profession as a doctor. (…) And so I’m always in anticipation “, did she say. She said she had a first alert around the Christmas period by «A blog in English [qui] reported unexplained pneumonia “. Around January 11, China announces its first death, and it “Then decides to inform the president and the prime minister”.
“My awareness changes on January 22, because the World Health Organization [OMS] says there is human-to-human transmission “, she said, assuring then having made many decisions:
“I request that I be given the number of resuscitation beds, the number of respirators and that I be given all the support capacities, stocks, masks, equipment, etc. I ask that Public Health France give me three possible scenarios for the evolution of the epidemic (…). I obviously ask among this list where the masks are. “
“We have not stopped acting since January 10, when we became aware that it was a coronavirus”, said Mme Buzyn. The former minister later returned to the charge: ” You cannot say that I did not anticipate and I will not let it be said that the services did not anticipate “
On the question of tests
Again, Mme Buzyn largely insisted that, according to her, her department had acted quickly enough. When he left in late February, “The goal was for all French hospitals to have access to the tests. At the time, there were a few dozen suspected cases a day. (…) We were on dozens of tests a day. ”
However, she added, “I anticipated the need for more testing.” That’s why “When I realized that the laboratory that was testing [à l’hôpital Bichat] was a P3 laboratory, that is to say a laboratory with a high level of security, with very few machines, I told myself, and I asked the director general of health – and a referral left as soon as next day -, “can’t we lower the level of requirement to do the tests in a P2”? Because there is no P3 in all hospitals in France. “