A group of Italian medical specialists recently sent a letter to the European community warning of the effects of the coronavirus on people who contract it, as well as on public health systems, revealing that in Italy 10 percent of those infected require intensive care but there is less and less room in hospitals.
According to the British newspaper The Independent, in the document that was sent to the European Society of Intensive Care, specialists indicate that so far the virus has infected 5,583 patients and as of Saturday, March 7, 233 deaths were recorded.
The exhausting process that the Italian specialists have had to deal with in order to guarantee treatment to the infected patients was evidenced in the note directed by the critical care experts, professor Maurizio Cecconi, professor Antonio Pesenti and professor Giacomo Graselli.
In the letter the doctors wrote: “We are seeing a high percentage of positive cases being admitted to our intensive care units (ICUs), in the range of 10 percent of all positive patients. (…) We wish to convey a strong message: Get ready!!”
The note sent by the specialists stated that Italian hospitals had seen a considerable increase in the number of patients needing intensive care due to their severe pulmonary insufficiency, even requiring ventilators to be able to breathe.
They warned medical centers throughout Europe of the importance of having optimal equipment and space to ensure the protection of staff as well as admitted patients.
“Increase your total ICU capacity. Identify early hospitals that can manage the initial surge in a safe way. Get ready to prepare ICU areas where to cohort COVID-19 patients—in every hospital if necessary,” they wrote.
In the case of the United Kingdom, intensive care units in early March were operating at 80 percent capacity, keeping specialists on edge about the capacity they can count on to handle cases of coronavirus patients seeking treatment.
According to the Independent, the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK has a low proportion of hospital beds, the lowest in Europe. Chris Whitty, the UK’s medical director, said that critical care units could face difficulties.
That’s why hospitals in the UK are assessing what measures to implement to care for those who are most likely to survive in the event that there are not enough beds, ventilators, or health care staff, if the worrying predictions are accurate.
For now, the NHS has announced that as a contingency measure to ease the strain, the number of medical tests that can be done per day in the UK will begin to double, with an increase from 2,000 to 4,000, in an effort to reduce the burden on medical staff as well as the number of people seeking care at a UK Department of Health and Social Care facility.
As for the note sent by the Italian experts, an NHS representative stressed the importance of cooperation at a time like the one Europe was going through as the expansion of the outbreak had a more serious impact on countries’ public health conditions.
“Every country is responding to this new virus, and as the chief medical officer has said, routine non-urgent services could well come under pressure, so it’s right that the lessons and recommendations from Italy are now being put into practice in England,” the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte urged people to stay home and called the outbreak “the darkest hour” in the country. Similarly, 60 million people are under travel restrictions and several meetings and public events have been canceled, according to CBS News.
Conte suggested citizens stay off the streets after announcing a national quarantine through a television broadcast where he said, “All of Italy will become a protected area” because of the “significant increase in infection cases and deaths.