Lacking beds, masks and docs, Europe’s health services struggle to cope with the coronavirus

VERDUNO, CUNEO, ITALY – 2020/03/31: Medical staff carrying Private Protecting Tools (PPE) are pictured exterior Verduno hospital (Alba-Bra hospital).

Nicolò Campo

A scarcity of beds, protecting tools and docs are simply a few of the points being confronted in Europe, as the coronavirus disaster exposes the weaknesses of the area’s nationwide health methods. 

After deep austerity measures over the final decade, the health methods of nations like Italy, Spain, the U.Ok. and Portugal are struggling to carry on high of the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19. There are some frequent points, corresponding to a scarcity of testing kits to monitor the virus, and not sufficient protecting clothes and tools.

“Overloaded,” a junior physician in the north of Portugal, and who did not need to be named due to the sensitivity of the concern, instructed #. “There aren’t any private assets nor (sufficient) tools for all the pieces.”

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa has mentioned all EU nations are discovering it laborious to meet demand for tools, however claims his nation’s health system is delivering on different non-virus instances.

Not sufficient docs

There’s one essential factor that governments are discovering it troublesome to present sufficient of: heath-care staff.

“A variety of workers are in quarantine, and those that aren’t find yourself doing shift on high of one other shift,” the Portuguese physician added.

The president of the Portuguese medical affiliation has appealed to retired docs to return to the nationwide health service and assist throughout the emergency. The nation noticed a big exodus of health professionals in the wake of the 2011 sovereign debt disaster, with some opting to transfer elsewhere, the place the wages have been increased. This has additionally been the case in Spain and Italy, the place the lack of medical workers has been a key concern throughout the pandemic.

MADRID, SPAIN – MARCH 31: Inside of an IFEMA pavilion fitted out as a short lived hospital for sufferers with coronavirus, on March 31, 2020 in Madrid, Spain.

Europa Press Information

When requested about the largest challenges going through Italy’s health-care system, Vincenzo Defilippis, director of the native health authority of Bari, in southern Italy, instructed #: “The shortage of docs and nurses.”

These health-care staff are the entrance line in the struggle in opposition to what European heads of state have dubbed a “coronavirus warfare.” There are a rising variety of medical workers who’ve died because of the coronavirus — in Italy, as an example, over 60 health-care professionals have died to date, in accordance to the Italian nationwide docs affiliation.

In Spain, in the meantime, there have been greater than 12,000 infections amongst health care staff to date, in accordance to the El Pais newspaper. The Normal Medical Council of Spain mentioned it didn’t have sufficient knowledge to verify what number of medical professionals had died from the virus to date when contacted by # Monday, nonetheless, it has beforehand confirmed that one physician, aged 59, and a nurse, aged 52, had died from COVID-19.

In the meantime in the U.Ok., one in 4 docs are off work as a result of they’re both sick or in self-isolation, in accordance to the Royal School of Physicians earlier this week.

Lack of protecting tools

Infections amongst medical professionals have reportedly been accentuated by a scarcity of protecting tools, corresponding to masks.

“Our foremost concern is to get as quickly as doable the proper tools to shield ourselves,” Tomás Cobo, an anaesthetist at a hospital in Madrid, Spain, instructed # by way of e-mail.

The overall variety of infections and deaths in Spain have surpassed these of China, the place the outbreak emerged in late 2019. The virus has taken so many lives that in Madrid some our bodies have been moved into an ice-skating rink, as the funeral houses have run out of house.

Italy was not prepared for COVID-19 pandemic.

Giuseppe Navarra

Professor of surgical procedure at the College of Messina

Considered one of the foremost criticisms of the Spanish authorities is that it did not refill on medical tools early sufficient. The federal government has vowed to purchase and distribute 550 million masks, 5.5 million checks and 950 items of assisted respiratory tools over the subsequent eight weeks, the health ministry introduced final week. 

In Britain, the authorities has additionally been criticized for a scarcity of protecting tools being accessible. Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the U.Ok. medical journal, The Lancet, mentioned in an article that the nation’s nationwide health system “has been wholly unprepared for this pandemic.”

A spokesman for the U.Ok. authorities mentioned Thursday that there have been some “distribution issues” of protecting tools, however famous that it is a non permanent concern.

Not sufficient beds

One other concern plaguing the health services in Europe is the incapacity to accommodate the massive numbers of sufferers falling gravely sick at the identical time.

“Now we have an awesome downside with the complete variety of ITU (intensive remedy unit) beds,” Cobo, from Madrid, added. Italy, the worst-hit nation in Europe, faces the identical downside.

“In the final decade, the (Italian nationwide health service) has seen cuts of greater than 37 billion euros ($40 billion) with a major discount of ICU (intensive care unit) beds collectively with a progressive privatization of health care, particularly in the wealthy north,” Giuseppe Navarra, professor of surgical procedure at the College of Messina in Sicily, instructed # by way of e-mail.

“Italy was not prepared for COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.

Docs are on the avenue in entrance of the emergency entrance of the hospital of St. Pau to thank the assist of the neighbors throughout the disaster of coronavirus – Covidien-19 in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, on March 31, 2020.


The Italian authorities has acquired masks, ventilators and professional recommendation from China, and the Italian health ministry has mentioned the extra distribution of protecting tools shall be prioritized to medical workers.

Each Defilippis and Navarra instructed # that some health-care staff had been instructed to proceed working even when they’ve examined optimistic for the virus, “until symptomatic.” The Italian authorities was not instantly accessible for remark when contacted by # Thursday.

Testing points

The U.Ok. has been criticized for a scarcity of testing. Horton slammed the U.Ok. authorities’s technique, saying that ministers didn’t observe recommendation from the WHO “to take a look at, take a look at, take a look at each suspected case.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s authorities has promised to speed up testing of suspected instances.

Johnson, who’s himself self-isolating after testing optimistic for the virus, mentioned on Wednesday that testing was “the method by means of. That is how we’ll unlock the coronavirus puzzle. That is how we’ll defeat it in the finish.”

Health consultants consider a scarcity of testing can occasion clarify why Italy and Spain have been hit with extra coronavirus instances than China. Primarily, the extra people who get examined, the higher that authorities can reply.

Given the unprecedented challenges and the strain on health-care methods, governments throughout Europe have introduced totally different steps to assist their very own sectors, together with creating contracts with personal care services and by saying new funding. 

In addition to ramping up the procurement of kit and checks, European governments have additionally constructed non permanent infrastructure to home contaminated sufferers, and establishments corresponding to the Crimson Cross and Docs with out Borders have helped to monitor the unfold of the virus.

“We’re confronted with an exogenous, international shock that has no precedents in fashionable historical past,” Italy’s Conte mentioned in an interview final month.

About the author

Tina Sanders

Tina Sanders

Tina is the mind behind, and she ideated it when she was working for an online magazine company where she used to cover US-based headlines news. She holds a degree in journalism and has more than 4.5 years of experience in an online magazine company. She had the idea while working there but when she was quite sure about starting something on her own, she took the risk and left the job to start Gruntstuff. Since then she added a few team members, and along with them, she creates General US news content on the site.

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