- Title: â€œSimply abandonedâ€: the story behind Italyâ€™s hidden death toll
- Date: 5th April 2020
- Summary: ROME, ITALY (RECENT - MARCH 16, 2020) (REUTERS) AMBULANCE ARRIVING / MEDICAL STAFF INSIDE AMBULANCE WEARING PROTECTIVE CLOTHING / REAR OF AMBULANCE WITH "SPECIAL BIOHAZARD VEHICLE" WRITTEN ON IT VARIOUS OF MEDICAL WORKER WEARING PROTECTIVE CLOTHING ESCORTING WOMAN INSIDE COLUMBUS COVID 2 HOSPITAL MILAN, ITALY (RECENT - MARCH 27, 2020) (REUTERS) NURSE WEARING PROTECTIVE CLOTHING NURSE WORKING NEXT TO PATIENT IN BED
- Keywords: Bergamo COVID-19 Italy Lombardy coffins death toll funeral health hospital intensive care unit lockdown new coronavirus quarantine
- Reuters ID: LVA009C87QYIV
- Location: VARIOUS, ITALY
- City: VARIOUS, ITALY
- Country: Italy
- Duration: 00:00:45
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Topics: Health/Medicine,Editors' Choice
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS GRAPHIC MATERIAL
Interviews with families, doctors and nurses in Italy's stricken Lombardy region are painting a grim picture that scores of people are dying at home due to COVID-19 as medical symptoms go unchecked by doctors and many phone consultations prove to be ineffective.
In Italy's northern Bergamo province alone, according to a study of death records released this week, the real death toll from the outbreak could be more than double the official tally of 2,060, which only tracks hospital deaths.
As the global fight to save lives centres on boosting the supply of hospital ventilators, some doctors say a lack of primary health care is proving just as costly because medics cannot or will not make home visits, in line with a worldwide tactic of switching to remotely delivered medical advice.
"Most vulnerable patients must be examined at home otherwise you cannot save them," said Riccardo Munda, who is doing the work of two doctors in Selvino and Nembro, two towns near Bergamo at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, after a colleague got sick.
"â€¦..these patients might suffer from senile dementia and they are unable to report their symptoms so you must go to their homes to try to find out the possible symptoms of the disease," he added before pausing to control his emotions.
He said many deaths could be avoided if people at home received prompt medical help, but doctors were swamped, lacked enough masks and suits to protect themselves from infection and were discouraged from making visits unless absolutely necessary.
While hospital workers were given priority in distributing masks, some family doctors say they went without. Unable to protect themselves, they felt unable to visit their patients safely or risked infection and for themselves to fall ill.
Maura Zucchelli, a nurse at Itineris, a private company that provides medical assistance at home in the Bergamo area said many patients now do not end up in hospital.
"If in the first two weeks the health emergency was being lived out in the hospitals now many of these patients no longer enter the hospitals but require assistance and home care because hospitals are full," Zucchelli said.
"Patients with mild symptoms and who have drugs and oxygen-ozone now stay at home" she said.
Zucchelli says her nursing team now pass grueling hours at the homes of people suffering from COVID-19 and many times they are caught up in the emotion as families watch their loved ones die.
"We bring this great suffering home with us," she said.
We are not used to seeing so many people die and we do not want to get used to seeing so many people die," Zucchelli said.
"We are truly living as if we were at war, a war of which we cannot see the end right now," she said.
(Production: Alex Fraser, Gabriele Pileri, Oriana Boselli, Fabiano Franchitti)
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