“There are still gaps between French national standards and the hospital and medico-social services on offer in Réunion,” says Philippe Lagier, Head of Projects of AFD’s Health Division. Indeed, there is a strong correlation between the quality of healthcare and the availability of solid and sustainable infrastructure. That’s why AFD has been committed to supporting Réunion's health sector for years. Its financial support over the past decade amounts to €220 million.
98% of hospitalizations now handled on the island
The chikungunya crisis of 2005-2006 highlighted the unpreparedness of Réunion’s hospitals and the lack of beds for critical and intensive care. The mosquito-borne epidemic infected hundreds of thousands of people and overwhelmed medical services.
In response, the Réunion University Hospital (CHU) branch in Saint-Denis opened a new 13,800 m² building for critical care in 2018. It’s a leap forward from the previously rundown intensive-care facilities, and it means Réunion residents need not be transferred to Metropolitan France for treatment.
Today, nearly all hospitalizations (98%) can be handled in Réunion, with patients assured better quality care.
In the southern part of the island, AFD provided support for the complete restructuring of the CHU branch in Saint-Pierre. First came the construction of the “Mother and Child” center, and more recently work has begun on the large-scale renovation and extension of the main facility. Some 21,000 m² of additional space will be built and 18,000 m² renovated by the expected completion date of 2022.
A hospital village in western Réunion
In western Réunion, AFD helped finance the rebuilding of the Gabriel Martin Hospital, which has now become the West Réunion Hospital Center (CHOR). Healthcare services here had been saturated, forcing patients to seek care at hospitals in southern and northern Réunion. But the CHOR, which opened in February 2019, has helped cope with demand. It’s more than just a hospital: it’s a hospital village where people live. It has also received high-quality environmental (HQE) certification.
The mental health sector is also undergoing a fundamental transformation. The Réunion Public Hospital for Mental Health (EPSMR) is revamping its non-hospital facilities in order to make modern and appropriate equipment available to the local population.
AFD’s commitment in this sector is to help provide coordinated care programs and to improve patients’ social inclusion and links with the city and with ordinary life. As EPSMR has numerous facilities, the project is also providing services throughout the island.
Helping the most vulnerable
To improve care for fragile children and adolescents, AFD provided support to Association Frédéric Levavasseur so that it could build a new medico-social center, located in the Commune Prima district of Saint-Denis. It will provide activities and learning opportunities for children and teens with autism and mental disabilities.
A number of facilities have been designed, including a music room and sensory spaces, whose lighting and furniture are adapted to help people with sensory issues cope with stimuli. With recourse to artistic, cultural, sports and musical resources, children gain an understanding of space and time, thereby facilitating life in the ordinary world.
Facilitating access to the work world
“Les Tidalons” is a medico-social facility that works toward the social and professional insertion of people with motor and physical disabilities. As its adult section director Jerry Gauvin explains, it’s “a place to gain confidence to integrate into the professional world.”
Indeed, helping disabled people there reach their maximum autonomy requires gradual adaptation in line with each individual’s needs and expectations. Those attending the facility can train in a variety of fields of manual or production work: processing, packaging, mailing, metalwork, carpentry, as well as even furniture caning.
Care for the elderly
AFD also works to improve care for gramounes (the Réunion creole word for the “elderly”). Although people over age 60 will make up 25.8% of the population by 2040, Réunion is lagging behind in terms of providing enough facilities for them. The number of beds at facilities for dependent elderly people is, for example, only 36.9 per 1,000 inhabitants over age 75, compared to 103 per 1,000 in Metropolitan France.
AFD has helped finance two facilities for dependent elderly people, in Saint-Pierre (Domus) and in Le Port (Fondation Père Favron). This support has created 180 beds, three quarters of which are reserved for elderly people living in situations of economic insecurity, which is common among the elderly in Réunion.
Quality of service at the institutions is a priority. The Saint-Pierre facility, for example, offers not only a restaurant, private rooms, and home automation equipment, but also a cinema, a library, and a landscape garden planted with trees. Alternative modes of care include pet therapy, garden therapy and balneotherapy – the treatment of diseases and ailments with baths, especially in natural mineral waters.
In all, the range and quality of healthcare in Réunion has seen significant improvements in recent years. But much still remains to be done. In a context of limited budgets for a variety of stakeholders, AFD is seeking solutions and remains available to provide guidance and financing.