The Italian medical community feels a sense of trauma.
As of this writing, 80 doctors and 21 nurses have lost their lives COVID-19 since February.
Meanwhile, two other nurses committed suicide.
As doctors mourn the colleagues they lost, they try to make up for so many others who have been infected and are in quarantine.
More than 12,000 health care workers have tested positive for the coronavirus so far in Italy.
In one hospital in Bresica, Lombardy, more than 300 employees were infected.
The city mayor called for more support after Spedali Civili’s precious intensive care beds had to be left empty due to a lack of healthy staff.
Professor Francesco Castelli, director of the infectious diseases unit of Spedali Civili, described the psychological impact on the staff of Sky News.
“We were wondering who will be next, which is of course psychologically demanding because apart from our colleagues, we are friends,” he said.
In addition to the unprecedented pressure at work, staff are so afraid of spreading the virus to their families that they isolate themselves at home.
“We all have some concerns about bringing the contagion home,” said the professor.
“We live an isolated month at home because we are also afraid of transmitting the contagion to our loved ones.
“If you put it all together … the workload, the fatigue, the fatigue … it’s quite psychologically demanding. “
While doctors and nurses are fighting to keep patients alive, they are afraid of their own exposure to the virus.
We were invited to visit one of the six new COVID-19 hospitals in Rome.
It’s not yet at full capacity, but the staff at COVID 3 Hospital are already overworked.
Health director Antonino Marchese introduces us to the intensive care unit and says the situation is “dire”.
Literally translated, it means “heavy” – but as it describes endless 14-hour shift days and a fear of contagion, it is clear that this is a modest description.
Mr. Marchese says, “This is a job we are very happy to do, we try to do our best, certainly very cautiously and trying not to contaminate ourselves. Despite all precautions, at first we did not all think that we should behave in a strict, almost military manner. ”
It is clear that the staff here are not taking any risks. Everyone wears protective clothing. The fear of contagion is palpable.
The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the start of the epidemic was largely responsible for the infection of staff.
The pandemic is often described by doctors as striking “like a tsunami”.
And by the time of the epidemic, it is too late to prepare.
As experts continue to work to understand COVID-19, evidence is emerging to suggest that frontline healthcare workers are more at risk.
But for Italy, they learned it too late.
“The situation was discovered when it was already a big problem,” said researcher Flavia Ricardo of the Italian Institute of Public Health.
“One thing we know about this family of viruses is that they tend to be transmitted very well in a health care setting … a disease that is normally spread by large droplets … it is spread by air .
“So it’s spread much more widely. And of course, the people most at risk are those who are most in contact with patients and who are involved in these medical procedures. “
While PPE for hospital staff is now a top priority, there is still a shortage of masks for general practitioners in Italy.
Generations of doctors and nurses are working and trying to survive in circumstances they may never have imagined. Circumstances that left Italy in a state of trauma and are now spreading worldwide.