The latest wave of COVID-19 cases in Italy is increasing pressure on hospitals and jeopardizing the treatment of some 11 million cancer patients, a medical association warned.
“The postponement of surgery may lead to the development of tumours in more advanced stages, with less chance of a cure,” the Federation of Oncologists, Cardiologists and Haematologists (FOCE) said in an appeal published on its website.
FOCE said Italy’s hospitals suffered from a lack of investment and inadequate staffing levels, and warned that the current scenario was starting to resemble the early months of 2020.
As a result of the pandemic, non-COVID hospital admissions declined by 1.3 million in 2020 compared with the previous year, the federation said.
“In 2021 some of these (hospital) activities were recovered, but the current situation marks a dramatic regression,” FOCE President Francesco Cognetti said in a statement.
Europe’s healthcare systems are being strained once again by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus over the holiday period, with large numbers of key staff ill or self-isolating and experts predicting the peak of infections is yet to come.
In Italy, the problem of infected health workers – more than 12,800 according to data gathered last week – is being compounded by the suspension of doctors, nurses, and administrative staff who are not vaccinated and represent just over 4% of the total workforce.
On Jan 7 Britain called in its military to help with a hospital COVID staffing crunch.
Italy reported 101,762 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, against 155,659 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of coronavirus-related deaths rose to 227 from 157.
Italy has registered 139,265 deaths linked to the virus since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, and has reported 7.55 million cases to date.
Reporting by Emilio Parodi, editing by Gavin Jones and Jonathan Oatis
Photo – Doctors and nurses wearing protective equipment work in the COVID-3 level intensive care unit, treating COVID-19 patients, at the Casal Palocco hospital near Rome, Italy. EPA-EFE/ANGELO CARCONI