Coronavirus pandemic: Hospitals will be forced to deny intensive care to Italians over 80 if crisis worsens
Coronavirus patients in Italy who are 80 and older will be denied access to intensive care if the pandemic worsens, according to emergency plans being proposed by a crisis management team in Turin.
The document, viewed by the Telegraph, will determine which patients receive treatment in intensive care and which do not if there are insufficient spaces in hospitals, which is possible as the country has just 5,090 intensive care beds.
"The criteria for access to intensive therapy in cases of emergency must include age of less than 80 or a score on the Charlson comorbidity index [which indicates how many other medical conditions the patient has] of less than 5," it states.
Italy is currently the worst-affected nation outside of mainland China and the document says the current growth rate "makes it likely that a point of imbalance between the clinical needs of patients with COVID-19 and the effective availability of intensive resources will be reached."
"Should it become impossible to provide all patients with intensive care services, it will be necessary to apply criteria for access to intensive treatment, which depends on the limited resources available."
It also says, in such a scenario, hospitals will be forced "to focus on those cases in which the cost/benefit ratio is more favorable for clinical treatment."
Some of these patients who are denied intensive care will be "left to die," fear doctors. "[Who lives and who dies] is decided by age and by the [patient's] health conditions. This is how it is in a war," one doctor said.
The document is complete and only requires approval from a technical-scientific committee before it is sent to hospitals, with the criteria expected to apply throughout Italy.
"I never wanted to see such a moment," said Luigi Icardi, a councilor for health in Piedmont, one of the country's worst-affected regions. "I never wanted to see such a moment. It [the document] will be binding and will establish in the event of saturation of the wards a precedence code for access to intensive care, based on certain parameters such as potential survival."
Italian premier Giuseppe Conte has warned that the country, which has over 24,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, has not yet seen the worst of the pandemic and asked citizens to respect the quarantine and not travel.
"Scientists tell us that we have not yet reached the peak," he said. "These are the riskiest weeks and we need the utmost precaution."
"Things like people leaving Milan on weekends to spend time with their family or at their residences in the south must absolutely stop," he continued. "We can no longer afford behavioral errors."
Italy has had 1,809 deaths from the novel coronavirus and has been on a nationwide lockdown for the last week as cases continue to rise.