Gérard Cotellon, the hospital director who became a “man to be killed”

Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe)

From our correspondent

Gérard Cotellon receives in his office with the shutters closed. The day before, stones were thrown at his window. “I believed in bullets”, confides the director of the CHU of Guadeloupe. Once again, a wave of violence affects the hospital center, in crisis since the law of August 5, 2021 on the obligation to vaccinate caregivers. We can no longer count the non-striking doctors and caregivers who were attacked, stoned, threatened, sometimes by a gun pointed at the temple.

Gérard Cotellon, he “A target in the back”, admits Bruno Jarrige, doctor at the CHU. More than the prefect, or the director of the regional health agency, he is the man to kill, the “Traitor” from the island where he was born in 1960. On his phone, death threats parade: an anonymous letter, received at his home – “Dirty nigger, we’re going to hide you” -, a Telegram message attached to a selfie of his wife and two daughters – “We know where your wife is braiding …” Each time, he files a complaint.

“Nothing will distract me from my mission, which is to run this hospital and ensure that patients are well looked after”, he says, however, right in his black suit. Gérard Cotellon, explains Bruno Jarrige, “Has broad shoulders”. Coming from a modest family, he left for Paris after his baccalaureate, where he became a nurse before climbing the ladder. He joined the management of Gonesse hospital (Val-d’Oise) in 2002, then in 2015, was appointed director of human resources to renegotiate the agreement on 35 hours at AP-HP. After multiple strikes, an agreement was finally reached.

So, in 2018, when Agnès Buzyn’s cabinet asked him to take the head of the CHU de Guadeloupe, Gérard Cotellon believed he knew ” in what (he) set foot “. In a failed hospital, with a terrible reputation and permanent social tensions. His mission ? Prepare for the transition to the new CHU scheduled for the end of 2022. “But I can’t. For three years, I have had to manage crises on a daily basis “, regrets the director. Strikes, first of all, which he did not “Still not understood the reasons”. Then the Covid-19 epidemic, which must be contained despite a lack of space and staff. The vaccine obligation finally, which bristles the unions.

In this last test, he tries the pedagogy, chooses to postpone the suspensions of unvaccinated staff to November 3, while the law provides for them from September 15. But nothing helps, the dialogue is broken, the violence, verbal and physical, “Without commonality” with what he experienced elsewhere. “In what other hospital can a union leader allow himself, in the hall, to utter death threats to his director?” Only here can you see that “, he asserts, not fearing against the unionized agents who blocked, for days, the logistics department and the kitchens, “Starving the patients”.

Behaviors “Without value or ethics”, results according to him of thirty years of laissez-faire: “To all my predecessors, the State said to give up, that social peace was more important. “ Today, he salutes the government’s firmness. Proud to show the intervention of the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, Thursday, December 16 at the National Assembly, who sends him personal encouragement. Determined to continue the fight.


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