Following the problems encountered during the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003, Beijing's public health authorities decided to strengthen their out-of-hospital emergency medicine resources and capabilities in the run-up to the Olympic Games, scheduled for 2008. They had to choose between the French model (mobile medical units staffed by onboard doctors and a call center for dispatching patients directly to hospitals capable of treating the medical problems identified) and the "pick up and run" system favored by the United States and the United Kingdom.
Beijing’s public health authorities chose the French model. As a result, Total formed a Public, Private Partnership with the public hospital system (AP-HP) in Paris and with the municipal health office in Beijing, under the aegis of the local French embassy.
One important objective of the partnership was to finance and organize a one-year, specialized emergency medical training program in France for 30 young Chinese doctors, to be conducted over a three-year period. Each doctor joined a mobile medical emergency unit or hospital emergency room team as an intern and as such was empowered to carry out emergency procedures. Upon completion of the program, doctors received an emergency medicine diploma accredited by the University of Paris VI. Once back in China, they returned to their original hospital, while also providing training in out-of-hospital emergency procedures to other physicians, mainly through a local training organization created with Total's support.
Another objective was to provide technical assistance for municipal services in Beijing:
• Support in setting up a centralized call center.
• Support in creating an emergency medical training center.
• Support from French medical emergency teams during the Olympic Games, if requested by local authorities.
The last objective was to finance and organize the Franco-Chinese conferences on emergency and disaster medicine in Beijing in 2005 and 2006. At the request of the Chinese authorities, the first conference dealt with the organization, management and financing of France’s out-of-hospital and in-hospital emergency medical care system. The second focused on medical topics, each of which was presented by both a French and a Chinese physician.
• Overcoming reluctance from the AP-HP and the Beijing Health Bureau to forming a public/private partnership, which was a new experience for both of them.
• A short timeframe in which to carry out the project.
• Language. French classes were provided to participants prior to their arrival in Paris and were continued-for some of them-during their stay in France.
• Thirty physicians completed their training and returned to Beijing.
• At the request of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a partnership has been created between the five AP-HP hospitals that trained physicians and the five Beijing hospitals from which they came
• At the request of Beijing municipal authorities, discussions are being held on ways to pursue the program after the 2008 Olympic Games