British nurse describes how coronavirus patients in Italy treated as 'numbers' as death toll passes that of China

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent John Ray

Coronavirus patients in Italy are treated as "numbers", a British nurse has told ITV News, as hospitals struggle to deal with the huge increase in cases.

Connor McAinsh, who works at the Gavazzeni Hospital in Bergamo, in one of the worst affected regions in Italy, said the intensive care unit where he works has seen "an endless stream of people coming in" being treated for coronavirus.

Some 3,405 people in Italy have died from Covid-19, meaning deaths there have surpassed those in China.

Speaking after finishing a night shift, Mr McAinsh told ITV News: "I think the whole dynamic has changed because we went from taking care of individual patients with their own problems, to having an endless amount of people with the same problem and not enough time or material to deal with everybody.

"And the rate of deaths going up so high, as soon as there was a death or that we could transfer a patient from our hospital to one of the first hospitals that was taking people with infectious diseases because they had wards for that, immediately we would take in new patients.

  • Connor McAinsh said coronavirus patients are receiving less personal care and are turning into 'numbers'

"It’s just an endless stream of people coming in and as soon as we have a bed, we have a new patient coming in who needs critical care.

"So it’s much less personal, there’s less of a one to one relationship with our patients now, they’ve just become, you know, numbers."

The hospital where Mr McAinsh works has been converted into a place where only coronavirus patients are treated. All non-related illnesses have been moved to other hospitals or discharged to free up as many beds as possible.

Reports from inside Italy's hospitals describe corridors overflowing with coronavirus patients and hospital staff working 14-hour days in a bid to get a grip on the crisis.

Despite their best efforts, the number of patients dying from the disease has left cemeteries unable to cope.

"They’ve had to build a tent outside the hospital and yeah, there are burials about every 30 minutes in the cemetery of Bergamo," he said.

  • Mr McAinsh describes the grim scenes in Italy's hospitals as they struggle to deal with coronavirus

"And there are no relatives, like it’s complete isolation.

"So for most of the patients that arrive, most of them see their families once when the ambulance goes to pick them up and there’s no contact, even until the moment of their death and their funeral.

"It just adds to a sense of helplessness in the whole situation, and with so many patients coming in, when someone dies it’s almost as if we say okay we couldn’t do anything for this person, now we can take another person and see if their condition will improve."

The situation in Italy has developed so rapidly it has left hospital staff without the necessary protective equipment to deal with patients.

He warned British experts and medical staff not to underestimate the threat posed by coronavirus.

He said: "I don’t think we were ready. We had never dealt with this kind of patient.

"And the change happened so quickly from having one patient with coronavirus, to having a whole intensive care ward dedicated to coronavirus patients, to have operating theatres shut down and beds put in the operating theatres for more incubated patients... it happened so quickly and I don’t think anybody expected that."