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As virus surges anew, Milan hospitals under pressure again

MILAN (AP) — Coronavirus infections are surging anew in the northern Italian region where the pandemic first took hold in Europe, putting pressure again on hospitals and health care workers.

At Milan’s San Paolo hospital, a ward dedicated to coronavirus patients and outfitted with breathing machines reopened this weekend, a sign that the city and the surrounding area is entering a new emergency phase of the pandemic.

For the medical personnel who fought the virus in Italy’s hardest-hit region of Lombardy in the spring, the long-predicted resurgence came too soon.


“On a psychological level, I have to say I still have not recovered,’’ said nurse Cristina Settembrese, referring to last March and April when Lombardy accounted for nearly half of the dead and one-third of the nation’s coronavirus cases.

“In the last five days, I am seeing many people who are hospitalized who need breathing support,” Settembrese said. “I am reliving the nightmare, with the difference that the virus is less lethal.”

Months after Italy eased one of the globe’s toughest lockdowns, the country is now recording well over 5,000 new infections a day — eerily close to the highs of the spring — as the weather cools and a remarkably relaxed summer of travel and socializing fades into memory. Lombardy is again leading the nation in case numbers, an echo of the trauma of March and April when ambulance sirens pierced the silence of stilled cities.

So far, Italy’s death toll remains significantly below the spring heights, hovering recently around 50 per day nationwide, a handful in Lombardy. That compares with over 900 dead nationwide one day in March.

In response to the new surge, Premier Giuseppe Conte’s government twice tightened nationwide restrictions inside a week. Starting Thursday, Italians cannot play casual pickup sports, bars and restaurants face a midnight curfew, and private celebrations in public venues are banned. Masks are mandatory outdoors as of last week.

But there is also growing concern among doctors that Italy squandered the gains it made during its 10-week lockdown and didn’t move quick enough to reimpose restrictions. Concerns persist that the rising stress on hospitals will force scheduled surgeries and screenings to be postponed — creating a parallel health emergency, as happened in the spring.

Italy is not the only European country seeing a resurgence — and, in fact, is faring better than its neighbors this time around. Italy’s cases per 100,000 residents have doubled in the last two weeks to nearly 87 — a rate well below countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Spain and Britain that are seeing between around 300 to around 500 per 100,000. Those countries have also started to impose new restrictions.

This time, Milan is bearing the brunt. With Lombardy recording more than 1,000 cases a day, the regional capital and its surroundings account for as many as half of that total. Bergamo — which was hardest hit last time and has been seared into collective memory by images of army trucks transporting the dead to

Care providers protest police violence in hospitals after Harbor-UCLA shooting

L.A. County Sheriff's deputies gathered outside Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
L.A. County sheriff’s deputies meet outside Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where multiple investigations are underway into a patient who was shot by a deputy last week. (KTLA-TV)

A group of care providers and activists gathered outside Harbor-UCLA Medical Center on Tuesday evening to protest police violence in hospitals after a patient was shot there last week by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy.

“Hospitals are a place where we should be getting care,” said Mark-Anthony Clayton-Johnson, founder of the Frontline Wellness Network, a coalition of care providers working to end mass incarceration. “In that context, there should never be a reason why a law enforcement officer should use lethal force, such as a gun, on our folks.”

Clayton-Johnson, who does not work at the hospital but was scheduled to speak at Tuesday’s event, added: “Sheriffs shouldn’t have any place responding to crises in our hospitals when trained providers are better equipped to save lives.”

Dr. Anish Mahajan, chief medical officer for the hospital, said in a statement Tuesday that the patient was experiencing a psychiatric crisis on Oct. 6 when he was shot by a deputy assigned to South L.A. station who was not a member of the sheriff’s unit at Harbor-UCLA. The patient, a man 30 to 40 years-old, has not been identified.

The deputy “was on-site to provide security services for another hospitalized patient who was in an adjacent room,” Mahajan said. “Multiple investigations are underway within and outside the hospital about how and why this incident occurred.”

Meanwhile , he said, hospital leaders “will review best practices on how to provide security services that optimally protect the health and safety of patients, visitors, and staff.”

Sheriff’s Lt. Derrick Alfred said last week that the patient was using a metal device to break the window of the room where two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were with another patient. One of the deputies then shot him.

Alfred said the device was “about the size of a shoebox but metal — all metal.”

In a news release, the Sheriff’s Department said that the patient “turned his attention on the deputy” before he was shot.

Some speakers at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting called for the removal of law enforcement from hospitals. Last week’s shooting at Harbor-UCLA was the second there in five years.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva responded: “It was a scene out of ‘The Shining’ with Jack Nicholson,” he said of the shooting. “We’re gonna give all the details tomorrow so you can make a decision for yourself on the wisdom of having law enforcement in hospitals.”

Times staff writer Faith E. Pinho contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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