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Italy on pace to run out of beds for critically ill coronavirus patients

Healthcare workers wearing protective suits Friday as they attend to patients in a makeshift facility outside Brescia' Hospital in Brescia, Italy. Photo by Filippo Venezia/EPA-EFE
Healthcare workers wearing protective suits Friday as they attend to patients in a makeshift facility outside Brescia' Hospital in Brescia, Italy. Photo by Filippo Venezia/EPA-EFE

March 13 (UPI) -- According to new scientific research, the spread of the coronavirus disease will likely push Italy's intensive care capability to maximum capacity if new cases keep emerging at the rate they are now.

The study, published in The Lancet Thursday, said as many as 11 percent of coronavirus patients need intensive care treatment in Italy -- and the nation's ability to meet that demand could be exhausted if the current growth of cases keeps up for another week.

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Italian health officials said Friday the death toll has now surpassed 1,000, following a spike of 189. The number of new cases climbed by more than 2,200, but the officials noted that nearly 1,300 have recovered.

Researchers Andrea Remuzzi and Giuseppe Remuzzi projected in the study that Italy will need 4,000 more ICU beds over the next month to meet demand for seriously ill coronavirus patients. There are now about 5,200 ICU beds nationwide.

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"There is now grave concern regarding the Italian national health system's capacity to effectively respond to the needs of patients who are infected and require intensive care," the study states.

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Giulio Gallera, the health chief in Lombardy, warned that ICU capacity in his north-central region of Italy will be reached within days. She said officials are considering adding hundreds of new beds at the convention center in Milan, its capital.

Adding to Italy's healthcare challenge is the number of medical workers -- about 20 percent so far -- who have picked up the virus.

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Flippo Anelli, president of Italy's federation of medical guilds, told Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that 50 physicians in the northern province of Bergamo had tested positive by Thursday; one died. He said part of the reason Italy's caseload has surged is because patients can't freely enter clinics without an appointment.

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