By Flavio Lo Scalzo
MILAN (Reuters) – There was no room for error at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan on Friday as medical staff moved an 18-year-old patient from the coronavirus ward for urgent tests in another unit.
It took an eight-member team, all wearing protective gear, to do it right – holding on to tubes, sensors, braces and other medical gear as the young man held on for dear life.
After he was rushed to have a CAT scan, the team rushed back to help the next patient. It was midpoint of another day that started early and would end late.
“Obviously our shifts are incredibly tiring,” said Moreno Tresoldi, head of the coronavirus unit.
“We are trying to give ourselves moments where the group can rest a little bit but it isn’t easy because we have a great number of beds to deal with,” he said.
Lombardy, the wealthiest and most populous region of Italy, has become the single deadliest hotspot for the coronavirus on the planet just now.
More than 5,400 people have died in the region, with the national total across Italy poised to top 9,000.
An extra intensive care unit at San Raffaele was built in just eight days last week to help cope with the large numbers of people desperately in need of hospital care.
The situation in Milan, Lombardy’s capital, has become particularly worrying. New infections jumped by more than 800 on Thursday to a total of almost 7,000.
Only the neighboring provinces of Bergamo and Brescia have a higher number of cases.
“We did not expect a situation like this that would last for so long and be so dramatic,” Tresoldi said.
Since many people are obeying a national lockdown to help stem the spread of the disease, Tresoldi said he hoped his exhausted team would start seeing fewer people arriving in the emergency ward.
“At this moment the numbers are stable rather than declining,” he said.
Italian medical workers risk their lives daily. The national federation of doctors and surgeons said that as of Thursday, 40 doctors had died, many of them in northern towns and cities.
San Raffaele’s new ward was built thanks to money donated to a fundraising campaign on ‘gofundme’ launched by Italian influencer Chiara Ferragni and her rapper husband Fedez, who both live in Milan.
More than 200,000 people in Italy and abroad donated money for the construction.