Christmas 2023, Balzanelli: “Boom in calls to 118, emergency rooms explode”

From 23 to 26 December requests increased by 40%

Covid, flu and various emergencies. In December, calls to 118 increased by 15% compared to November. The boom occurred especially at Christmas: from 23 to 26 December, requests for help increased by 40%, with peaks of +80% in some areas of the country. Mario Balzanelli, president of Sis 118, reports this to Adnkronos Salute. The increase recorded this month compared to the previous one, he explains, “is however lower than 2022, when in December calls to 118 increased by 19% compared to November. Last year there was a greater prevalence of more challenging clinical forms of Covid”. In any case, this month, “there was a +55% of interventions for respiratory diseases only“.

For the 118 vehicles and operators, December was a month of super work, destined to increase in these last days of 2023. On New Year’s Eve, he underlines, “it is a necessary reinforcement of the 118 systems is expected, to deal with the increase in requests for help due to road accidents and firecrackers and bangs“. But despite a greater deployment of resources “the problem of overcrowding in emergency rooms, bordering in some situations on the verge of management paralysis, risks significantly compromising the full functionality of the emergency system”, warns the president of Sis 118.

In recent weeks the emergency rooms are bursting at the seams and rows of ambulances can be seen outside, with patients on board waiting to be assisted and treated. “This determines the blocking of the fleet of operational vehicles, which arrive at the hospital, line up in single file and remain there for an indefinite time, freed from the management of other emergencies. As the hours pass, the 118 systems progressively find themselves with a number of increasingly fewer ambulances, it is a vicious circle that cannot be allowed.”

In too many cases, he highlights, “the emergency rooms fill up, turning into an impressive stretcher cityfor clinical situations that do not require any emergency or urgent management context, i.e. there is no imminent danger to life, or potential danger in a short time”.

For Balzanelli, “the fundamental fact to reflect on is the enormous volume of inappropriate access to the emergency room by people with problems and disorders that they perceive as acute and urgent, but which have nothing to do with the emergency and which must be managed elsewhere. The problem is not to expand the emergency rooms, but to give this mass of patients places where minor acute cases can be better managed, without overwhelming and paralyzing the emergency departments. Waiting for it to be defined at a national level the organizational system envisaged by the new territorial reform, there is only one solution: reactivating the 118 first aid pointsand strengthen them where they still exist, as in Puglia”.

“It was a sensational oversight by Ministerial Decree 70 to foresee their closure – claims Balzanelli – these are fixed stations, with doctors and nurses from 118 who are able to effectively filter 97% of the patients who arrive there, guaranteeing a medical evaluation nursing and immediate therapies, without long waits. For them the problem is resolved and they are sent home, only 3% end up in hospital for hospitalization. If these points are then found in converted hospitals, or in any case in the hospitals themselves, they can also provide specialist consultancy, laboratory investigations, targeted diagnostic imaging tests.The 118 first aid point, otherwise defined as a fixed medical station, is an intermediate territorial structure capable of managing from green codes, the majority, to red codes. If we want to effectively decongest the emergency rooms, they must be restored and strengthened”, he remarks. “If the community houses were built, they could represent functional modules to host our first aid points.”