Hospitals in northern Italy are on the brink of collapse as doctors struggle with an explosion of coronavirus cases which have overwhelmed the system, according to VICE.
Italy has the second-highest number of confirmed cases outside of China, topping 10,000 this week with 631 deaths - roughly 15% of the worldwide toll.
In just three weeks since aggressively spreading throughout the region, Italian intensive care units (ICUs) have been hit by a shortage of beds, staff, and ventiliators - which will worsen the chances of survival for those in critical condition.
"Health care facilities have reached critical levels in Lombardy due the high number of hospitalizations and cases requiring intensive care," said Elisabetta Groppelli, virologist and lecturer in public health at St. George's, University of London.
Groppelli told VICE News that the system in Lombardy had gotten by so far by transferring patients to other regions with capacity. For that to continue to work, authorities would have to ensure that their containment measures worked to stop the rise in new infections elsewhere around the country.
“It’s imperative for Italy to slow down transmission, and this requires strict application by citizens and business of the draconian measures identified by the government,” she said. -VICE
"By now, we’re forced to provide intensive care treatment in the corridor, in the operating rooms, in the recovery rooms," said Antonio Pesenti, coordinator of the region's intensive care crisis unit in a statement to Italy's Corriere Della Serra newspaper, adding that the situation would become "catastrophic" if people did not self-quarantine.
"We gutted entire hospital wards to make room for the seriously ill. One of the best healthcare systems in the world, the Lombard one, is one step away from collapse."
Massimo Galli, director of infectious diseases at Milan’s Sacco hospital, told The Guardian he had similar concerns. “The pressure on hospitals in Lombardy these days is enormous. I am very, very worried about the impact the virus will have on our health system.” -VICE
An unverified recording of two Italian health workers reveals the dire situation they're facing in medical facilities.
While roughly 80% of those who contract the disease report mild or no symptoms, between 15 and 20% require hospitalization.
Added new data point on the exponential italian ICU trend (doubling every 2.6 days)— epsilon (@epsilon3141) March 6, 2020
It's one of the most alarming charts I've ever seen because
1. Trend has been very stable for weeks even with Italy mitigation measures
2. If it continues health sys. collapses within 2 weeks pic.twitter.com/rohZouVzrC
"If the increase in the number of infected people in need of intensive care doesn’t slow down, we could have issues," said Giulio Gallera - Lombardy's top health official.
Lombardy’s top health official, Giulio Gallera, told Bloomberg that the region had dedicated 80% of its 1,123 acute-care beds to coronavirus. But Pesenti said that according to some forecasts, Lombardy could have 18,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients by March 26, between 2,700 and 3,200 of whom would require acute care.
Gallera said that health officials were in a “race against time” to find more acute care beds, with about 150 more due to open in the next week. Whether this was enough to respond to the crisis would depend on the effectiveness of the government’s drastic containment measures. -VICE
That said, despite their best efforts there were signs of major mistakes in the way Italian officials have handled the outbreak. On Saturday, thousands of people fled infected areas after news of the impending quarantine leaked - raising fears that the disease was quickly spread to other regions where the healthcare system is not as robust as the wealthy north.
And as you heard in the video above, there is a serious shortage of staff in ICUs across Italy, which was facing a 3,000 doctor shortage before the outbreak according to the report.
"Let's stop saying it's a bad flu," wrote ICU physician Daniele Macchini of the Humanitas Gavazzeni hospital in Bergamo, located in Lombardy around 25 miles northeast of Milan. "The war has literally exploded and battles are uninterrupted day and night."
"We must spread the word to prevent what is happening here from happening all over Italy."