January-June 2020 : C3Medical team in china at the heart of the fight against COVID-19

Like a bad omen, CoVid-19 made a sudden apparition internationally for the 2019 end of year celebrations. In particular for the C3Medical team in China based in Shanghai who found itself plunged into the heart of the crisis.

At the beginning of January, we were on a business trip with Pr. Bey and Dr. Anhoury of Institut Curie visiting the top hospitals Jiaotong Medical University of Shanghai – the Ruijin Hospital and the XinHua Cancer Hospital for Children -, we realized the growing preoccupations and the increasing involvement of our counterparts. 

A new huge scale phenomenon was appearing before our eyes, without knowing at that time if it was just a warning with justified concerns: the virus, its severity, the speed of contagion hadn’t yet been correctly evaluated. 
On arriving back in France, regular daily contacts, converging information received from people “in the know” from our teams in Shanghai, from medical teams in our partner hospitals in China and in France, all convinced us that a medical tidal wave had just hit China. 
From the end of January, the closure of Hubei and its capital city Wuhan followed by the progressive and total lockdown of China left us with no doubt. 

The question remained to determine whether this epidemic would become a global pandemic, and more precisely, would it get to Europe, and especially France. If so, how fast would it happen so that we could prepare.  Especially for welcoming the Chinese patients already programmed for treatment at the beginning of 2020. 
This was the priority for our Chinese team, although already in lockdown but fully active still, by means of video-conferences and our BestCare on-line system.
Meanwhile in Paris, the teams were busy providing total moral and physical support, especially for the patients currently undergoing treatment as well as for their accompanying families, whose anxiety was increasing, all the while verifying the feasibility with our partner hospitals of maintaining the future programmed patient arrivals. 

Unfortunately, given the alarming proportions that the epidemic was taking, the French hospitals began to take the first sanitary precautions – as described by Dr. Anhoury – deciding in early February to temporarily stop the arrival of patients from Asia, particularly the Chinese citizens. 
This drastic decision was heart wrenching for all parties involved but the future proved to us that this decision was the right one to make in terms of health safety and wellbeing of both the patients and the medical teams. 

At the end of February, our « medical travel » activity from China to France was put on hold, waiting for better days.
In parallel, our C3Medical team in China found itself at the heart of new demands. 
Initially we constantly offered our moral support to our Chinese friends in the medical field, who were grateful for these messages of friendship and support coming from their counterparts in France. This seemed the least we could do but – as we were able to recognize at a later date -, this small contribution was of considerable benefit to their moral. 
To know that they were admired and esteemed by their distant and prestigious French counterparts, during their fight to contain the pandemic, was a motive of great pride, which lifted their moral.
Thus, as well as the Shanghai hospitals previously mentioned, the relationship was greatly reinforced between C3Medical, the Institut Curie and the reference hospital of insurance company Taikang (n°3 China, 230 millions customers, 800 000 employees), the Drum Tower of Nanjing party a major strength for the « sister » hospital Taikang of Wuhan. 
Progressively the combat advanced and with the first signs of success, we were able to benefit from initial feedback, notably what actions were proving to be working: lockdown measures, masks mandatory, massive testing, etc. 
As we received the information, we provided it immediately to our partner hospitals and to our counterparts at French HealthCare. 

On Friday March 13th, in introduction to our association’s first conference dedicated to COVID-19 and with the actions that we could collectively provide, our friend Pr. Li, President Taikang Hospital in Nanjing, whose teams were fighting the combat in Wuhan, spoke via video-conference, providing us with precious information and recommendations. 

In addition, more confidential issues: such as the impact of a lack of blood supplies, caused by the necessity to quarantine the blood pouches for 14 days before use.  We forwarded this information immediately and discretely to the government powers that be. 

In parallel, during the month of February, our friends from Aden Group – French success story in China: specializing in « facility management high tech », with its head office in Shanghai and 25 000 employees present in 80 major Chinese cities –, we informed as to their capacity to rapidly implement for France a reliable and high functioning supply chain of masks – several tens of millions each month – as well as « high tech » disinfection solutions and other robotics. 

Faced with the situation, we decided to coordinate our efforts and obtain the help of the Taikang group « supply chain » along with a Franco-Chinese partner in a « joint-venture » with the Chinese government, for the production of surgical masks, Onixea. We were able to bring over around 2 million FFP1 and FFP2 type masks for our medical partners during the highest point of the pandemic. 

COVID-19 is not yet beaten: it still kills, will incapacitate for a long time the survivors who leave reanimation units, while there is still no 100% reliable test and current treatments remain limited. Concerning the prospect a an efficient vaccine…
However, life has begun again.  The end of April for China, and currently for France. 
And now, our historical activity of « medical travel » has begun again: we are currently looking into the first cases of Chinese patients.  They are expected to arrive mid-July. 

And once again the major projects have been re-launched – even faster than before, such as the « 2nd opinion / 2ème avis médical 4.0» a program between the Taikang group and the Institut Curie. This project will be the turning point of new international « connected » cooperation between teams at a distance, in different time zones, and with different medical cultures.

Globally, what will remain for our friends the medical teams, is that they spent hours doing a job that wasn’t theirs – finding and obtaining medical supplies -. 
We are proud to have been able – modestly – through the hard work of our teams in Shanghai and Paris – to contribute to improving the sanitary conditions and the protection of our medical teams exposed, while doing their duty with bravery, at the cost of their own health, even of their lives. 

Didier Carraud, Vice President C3Medical