Italian Health Care at the Breaking Point

The rest of the European Union is not far behind.

Italy is the center of the outbreak in Europe. It may be fair to say it is the center of the outbreak outside of China. Coronavirus: Italy doctors ‘forced to prioritise ICU care for patients with best chance of survival’.

Amid a surge of cases, Italy’s healthcare system is at breaking point, with medical staff describing chaotic conditions at under-resourced hospitals.

A 60-year-old doctor, Roberto Cosentini, told Italian newspaper La Republica that between 60 to 80 infected people come to his hospital daily.

“If this new wave does not subside, the health system is heading towards collapse: triggered by what we can compare to a natural catastrophe,” he said.

The patients can’t be visited by family if they are dying. They are in quarantine, after all. Doctors and nurses have been using phones to make video calls to relatives, so that people can say goodbye.

“Do you see the emergency room? COVID-19 patients enter alone, no relatives can attend and when they are about to leave they sense it. They are lucid, they do not go to narcolepsy.

“It is as if they were drowning, but with plenty of time to understand it.”

He described a patient who was a grandmother and wanted to speak to her granddaughter. The only way to speak to her was via video call.

“I pulled out the phone and called her on video. They said goodbye. Shortly after she left. By now I have a long list of video calls. I call it the farewell list. I hope they give us mini iPads, three or four would be enough, not to let them die alone.”

As for the rest of the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EAA), they are not far behind. Rapid risk assessment: Novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic: increased transmission in the EU/EEA and the UK – sixth update

The speed with which COVID-19 can cause nationally incapacitating epidemics once transmission within the community is established, indicates that in a few weeks or even days, it is likely that similar situations to those seen in China and Italy may be seen in other EU/EEA countries or the UK.

The risk is that hospitals will be overwhelmed if/when the infection gets going in a big way.

The risk of healthcare system capacity being exceeded in the EU/EEA and the UK in the coming weeks is considered high. The impact and risk assessment on health system capacity can be mediated by the application of effective infection prevention and control and surge capacity measures.

I imagine that we are few weeks behind Italy/the EU in terms of the growth you see in viral infections. My previous post on the state of Italian Health Care and COVID-19 is at this link.

One thought on “Italian Health Care at the Breaking Point

  1. This IS coming to America….and ever first world nation. There simply is NOT ENOUGH critical care beds and skilled persons available to deal with the number of life threatening infections that WILL be showing up soon. There WILL be choices made. It’s inevitable. If enough people are denied definitive care due to government imposed triage standards it could very well lead to a collapse of
    social order, the imposition of martial law and the failure of who knows how many non dictatorial governments. People talk like they understand reality but when the hospital turns away your 70 year old mother who IS dying from pneumonia because the beds are all full there WILL be people who react to that with violence.


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