Coronavirus: The actual conditions of the hospitals in Lombardy

Due to the coronavirus emergency, Italy has extended the quarantine to the entire national territory. More than 60 milion people are lockdown in order to contain the massive outbreak of COVID-19 that is dramatically affecting the country. Only people with proven, work-related reasons or health problems will be able to leave their houses.

Restaurants and bars will be allowed to open from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. only if they can guarantee that customers are at least one meter apart.

Gyms, swimming pools and ski resorts, clubs, cinemas and theaters, churches and cultural centers are now closed. In the next hours, the unprecedented restrictions could be aggravated in Lombardy, where the epidemic is causing the most severe damages. Italian Prime Minister Antonio Conte is called to decide whether to stop all public transport services as well as the rest of commercial activities, including shops, offices and factories.

Less than twenty days ago, Italy had only few cases. Today, we count 10,149 total Covid-positive patients, 877 requiring intensive care and 631 deads.

For healthy individuals, the virus itself might not be a serious concern: most patients have  mild symptoms or not symptoms at all, but they can still spread the virus.

The disease— named SARS-Cov-2, where SARS stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome—causes pneumonia, especially in elderly and immunocompromised patients, to the extent that they might require advanced respiratory support.

Current data shows that about 10% of patients need intensive treatment. Head of the Lombardy regional crisis response unit Antonio Pesenti predicted that by March 26 they will have 18,000 sick people and 3,000 of them will need respiratory assistance.

«We’re now being forced to set up intensive care treatment in corridors, in operating theaters, in recovery rooms. We’ve emptied entire hospital sections to make space for seriously sick people he said to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

In Northern Italy, hospitals are completely overwhelmed with patients requiring to be put in the ICU. All non-essential medical care has been cancelled until further notice to minimize the necessity of non-Covid medical assistance; retired nurses and doctors, as well as doctors in training, are being recalled to work in order to relieve the already exausted medical staff.

It is impossible to predict how long any patient will be needing respiratory support: alleged Patient No. 1—the 38-year-old man named Mattia—has just been moved out of ICU. He had been tested positive February 21 and never been able to breathe on his own ever since: this proves that everyone, including young people withouth pre-existing illness, could experience very serious complications.

Unfortunately, the emergency is not affecting Covid patients only: Lombardy Welfare Councilor Giulio Gallera claimed that ambulances that used to arrive in 8 minutes in the area of Milan, now can take up to 1 hour.

If they will not be able to prevent the virus from further spreading, the situation could get even worse: since car accidents, heart attacks and strokes will continue to occur, there may not be enough ICU beds or ventilators available. In this horrific scenario, doctors would have no choice but to perform triage on already admitted patients, deciding who will receive the ventilation treatment and who will not. 

The outbreak is putting unbelievable strain on Italian health-care system and if it will worsen, no matter the latest government’s efforts to contain it, it would be nearly impossible to deal with the consequences.

Silvia Fornaroli
Silvia Fornaroli
Silvia Fornaroli has an active interest in human rights and environmental issues. Inspired by the story of Italian Anti-Fascist Internationalist Battalion commander Karim Franceschi, she felt the need to express her support to the Kurdish people and share independent opinions about today’s Middle East crisis.