“They have run out,” he told Euronews late last month. “Certainly, we were not prepared to face this situation."
Natali, a son of a doctor, worked in Codogno, where the country’s outbreak originated, and treated dozens of patients as coronavirus cases exploded in his region. The father of two had served as secretary of the general practitioners’ federation in Lodi, where he also mentored other doctors, the federation said.
According to European media reports, the doctor died alone, isolated in intensive care.
“I have no more tears,” the head of the federation, Silvestro Scotti, wrote on Facebook, mourning his friend. “You didn’t deserve this. We don’t deserve this.”
As of Thursday, Natali is among at least 13 doctors in Italy who have died on the front lines while treating the nation’s coronavirus patients under strenuous circumstances, according to Italian news agency ANSA. Italy, the worst-hit European country, has also seen more than 2,600 health-care workers infected, as its hospitals are stretched beyond their limits.
In the United States, doctors have feared that if shortages in supplies and equipment aren’t robustly addressed, Natali’s experience could be a harbinger for what’s to come.
Natali’s colleague, Irven Mussi, compared the shortage of basic protective supplies for doctors to being sent to war without any protection, Spain-based news outlet ABC reported. Another colleague who also tested positive for coronavirus, Paola Pedrini, lamented to Euronews that little had changed for doctors since Natali fell ill late last month.
“The situation has not gotten better since end of February. We received some masks, some gloves kit, nothing else,” said Pedrini, a regional secretary with Italy’s general practitioners’ federation. “A mask that should last half a day, here lasts a week.”
American doctors are already running into problems with a shortage of face masks to the point that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged doctors to use bandannas if they run out of them. Numerous hospitals and health-care clinics have been soliciting mask donations, and even TV hospital dramas have stepped up to help donate theirs. In St. Paul, Minn., for example, Open Cities Health Center has put out an urgent call for gloves and masks, warning that if it doesn’t have enough to go forward, it may have to shut down, the Pioneer Press reported.
As The Washington Post reported Thursday, some hospitals are even making DIY supplies, using parts purchased from Home Depot and craft stores. Nurses in Boston said they have turned to racquetball eyewear as a substitute for safety goggles to protect their eyes.
Nicole Lurie, a former assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration, told The Post earlier this week that the CDC’s bandanna option in place of masks should serve as a “wake-up call.”
“The bottom line is, if you cannot protect health-care workers and they get sick, the whole system goes down,” she said. “The priority to maintain public health is to protect health-care workers.”
On Thursday, Vice President Pence announced that a new law will allow manufacturers to produce tens of millions more N95 protective masks per month, easing certain restrictions. But as The Post’s Jeanne Whalen reported, it is not immediately clear whether the expected increase will be enough to meet demand.