As Italy grapples to halt the coronavirus, ordinary citizens raise funds for a beleaguered and overstretched healthcare service.
Italians have turned to the online community to raise money for Italy’s beleaguered hospitals, in what has become one of the largest fundraising campaigns on GoFundMe, as groups of people in cooperation with Italian hospitals set up pages seeking donations.
More than $8 million has been raised as Italy continues to struggle to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
One page in particular, fundraising for the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, has raised more than $4.5 million. The region has been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
The people behind the fundraising have said that, “the funds raised will be directly donated to the hospital to strengthen intensive care” adding: “In this really difficult phase for our country we can also do something to support our communities.”
Italy has become the epicentre of the outbreak in Europe with nearly 60,000 cases and 5,476 deaths at the time of writing. The country has been placed in lockdown since March 9, however the number of cases and deaths has continued to rise dramatically.
Late last week, Italy surpassed the number of deaths in China, where 3,270 have died and 81,000 people have been infected. While China has managed to drastically reduce the number of local infections to single digits, now receiving more cases from outside, Italy has struggled to contain the outbreak.
Italy’s world-class hospital network has suffered and has pushed the whole system to breaking point.
Online donation pages have become a symbol of a healthcare system overwhelmed by a pandemic. In addition, ordinary citizens quarantined at home seemingly powerless have decided to help in any way they can.
Another fundraising page which has generated more than $1.2 million for the northern city, Bergamo, has seen thousands of individual donations from within Italy and around the world.
The organisers in a statement said: “Bergamo city and its province are dramatically hit by coronavirus: more than 6,200 people are infected. Doctors and personnel of the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital are tirelessly working. The dramatic situation will get worse in the coming days. We can help them in enforcing the intensive care unit of Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital.”
Since that message was initially posted more than 10 days ago, the number of infections and deaths has significantly spiked in the province.
The mayor of Bergamo said: “There are significant numbers of people who have died but whose death hasn’t been attributed to the coronavirus because they died at home or in a nursing home and so they weren’t swabbed.”
Many of the fundraising pages that are co-operating directly with the hospitals give an indication of some of the critical and necessary equipment that are missing on the front lines: mechanical ventilation units, non-invasive ventilation units, Hemodynamic monitoring units for critically ill patients, disposable surgical caps, scrubs and single-use glasses.
There are reports that medical staff in Italy are forced to decide which patients to save and which to let die because of a shortage of staff and equipment.
Cuba announced on Sunday that a specialist medical team will fly out from Havana and head to the Lombardy region of Italy, one of the most hard-hit areas from the coronavirus.
China has also sent shipments of medical aid to Italy to help in their battle.
Italy has announced new measures to combat the spread of the virus over the weekend after a spike in deaths and infections. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced all non-essential factories would close down and only essential shops would remain open.
Italy spends 8.8 percent of its GDP on healthcare, a lower share than the EU average of 9.8 percent, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The OECD in 2019 assessed that while Italy has a higher number of doctors than the EU average, the country also employed fewer nurses than the rest of the block. The OECD added: “The Italian healthcare system is generally efficient and performs well in providing good access to high-quality care at a relatively low cost.”