Not enough ventilators and collapsing ERs: What it's like inside Italy's hospitals right now.

“I’m afraid too. But not to go shopping, I’m afraid to go to work,” wrote Italian nurse Alessia Bonari in an Instagram post featuring her weary, bruised face.

“I’m afraid because the mask may not adhere well to the face, or I may have accidentally touched myself with dirty gloves, or maybe the lenses do not completely cover my eyes and something may have passed,” she said.

“The lab coat makes me sweat and once dressed I can no longer go to the bathroom or drink for six hours. I can’t afford the luxury of going back to my quarantined house, I have to go to work and do my part.

“I am psychologically tired, and as are all my colleagues who have been in the same condition for weeks, but this will not prevent us from doing our job as we have always done,” she explained.


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Sono i un’infermiera e in questo momento mi trovo ad affrontare questa emergenza sanitaria. Ho paura anche io, ma non di andare a fare la spesa, ho paura di andare a lavoro. Ho paura perché la mascherina potrebbe non aderire bene al viso, o potrei essermi toccata accidentalmente con i guanti sporchi, o magari le lenti non mi coprono nel tutto gli occhi e qualcosa potrebbe essere passato. Sono stanca fisicamente perché i dispositivi di protezione fanno male, il camice fa sudare e una volta vestita non posso più andare in bagno o bere per sei ore. Sono stanca psicologicamente, e come me lo sono tutti i miei colleghi che da settimane si trovano nella mia stessa condizione, ma questo non ci impedirà di svolgere il nostro lavoro come abbiamo sempre fatto. Continuerò a curare e prendermi cura dei miei pazienti, perché sono fiera e innamorata del mio lavoro. Quello che chiedo a chiunque stia leggendo questo post è di non vanificare lo sforzo che stiamo facendo, di essere altruisti, di stare in casa e così proteggere chi è più fragile. Noi giovani non siamo immuni al coronavirus, anche noi ci possiamo ammalare, o peggio ancora possiamo far ammalare. Non mi posso permettere il lusso di tornarmene a casa mia in quarantena, devo andare a lavoro e fare la mia parte. Voi fate la vostra, ve lo chiedo per favore.

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This is the reality in Italy right now as the entire country is put into lockdown – a precaution that we too could soon face in Australia, as the threat of COVID-19 spreads.

Italy is a country that thrives on socialising and the culture of drinking, eating and being with others in social settings.


Right now, it’s a ghost country, as 62 million people are forced to restrict their movements.

Everyone is indoors – events like weddings and funerals have been cancelled – and the country’s hospitals are filling up.

“We are facing an emergency, a national emergency,” Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte told his country, as Italy’s infections doubled from 2,500 to 5,800 in less than a week.

Right now, Italy’s confirmed cases are above 12,000, with deaths surpassing 827. (You can see the constantly updating figures here.)

LISTEN: Can I Go To The Shops? What Life’s Really Like In COVID-19 Lockdown. Post continues after video.

The hospitals of Italy are preparing for it to get worse as the World Health Organisation declares the virus a pandemic, worldwide.

As Dr. Daniele Macchini, an ICU physician in Bergamo, Lombardy, wrote on Facebook; they’re in the middle of a war.

“I myself watched with some amazement the reorganisation of the entire hospital in the past week, when our current enemy was still in the shadows: the wards slowly “emptied”, elective activities were interrupted, intensive care were freed up to create as many beds as possible,” he wrote.

“All this rapid transformation brought an atmosphere of silence and surreal emptiness to the corridors of the hospital that we did not yet understand, waiting for a war that was yet to begin and that many (including me) were not so sure would ever come with such ferocity.”

Dr Daniele Macchini
Dr Daniele Macchini has shared his thoughts from the centre of Italy's outbreak in a damning Facebook post.

But the admissions started to increase, until they were being presented with 15-20 a day.

In his part of northern Italy - one of the country's worst affected areas - there have been close to 1,500 positive cases of the virus.

"The results of the swabs now come one after the other: positive, positive, positive. Suddenly the E.R. is collapsing," Dr Macchini explained, likening the disease to a "tsunami that has swept us all" and an "epidemiological disaster".

Things like ventilators are becoming 'gold' in hospital corridors, with the radiology reports always the same: 'bilateral interstitial pneumonia'.

There's tears from staff as they are forced to be isolated from their families - in fear of infecting them. A practice mirrored in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak first started.

We keep being told most of the victims have underlying health issues, or are older and have more vulnerable immune systems.


But intensive care cardiac anaesthesiologist Martina Crivellari told ITV, at her hospital in Milan the youngest patient infected there is 38, and has no health issues at all.

A doctor, dressed in overalls and a mask to protect himself
A doctor, dressed in overalls and a mask to protect himself, in front of a tent in the courtyard of the Cotugno hospital in Naples. Image: Marco Cantile/LightRocket via Getty.

"A lot of patients need help with breathing but there are not enough ventilators. There are a lot of young people in our Intensive Care Units (ICUs)," she told the broadcaster.

She fears they too will see their hospitals start to "collapse" under the strain of patients, like they are in Lombardy which has some of the best healthcare in the country.

"Rome right now is like where Milan was 10 days ago. In 10 days there has been an incredible escalation," she explained.

READ: 200 patients a day and adult nappies: What it's like working on the China's coronavirus frontline.

Italy went from having a handful of cases of COVID-19 to the second largest death toll after China in less than three weeks.

Here, we currently have 127 cases, and three deaths.

Feature image: Instagram.