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Italian doctors warn of risk of cancer treatment due to COVID outbreak

Medical staff perform stereotaxic radiation therapy at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center San Pietro FBF, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Rome, Italy, May 27, 2020. REUTERS / Yara Nardi

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MILAN, Jan.11 (Reuters) – The latest wave of COVID-19 cases in Italy is increasing pressure on hospitals and jeopardizing the treatment of some 11 million cancer patients, a medical association said on Tuesday.

“Postponing surgery can lead to the development of tumors at more advanced stages, with less chance of recovery,” the Federation of Oncologists, Cardiologists and Hematologists (FOCE) said in a call posted on its website.

FOCE said hospitals in Italy suffered from a lack of investment and under-staffing, and warned that the current scenario was starting to resemble the first months of 2020.

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Due to the pandemic, non-COVID hospital admissions fell by 1.3 million in 2020 compared to the previous year, the federation said.

“In 2021, some of these (hospital) activities have been recovered, but the current situation marks a dramatic regression,” FOCE President Francesco Cognetti said in a statement.

Europe’s healthcare systems are again strained by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus over the holiday season, with large numbers of key staff ill or self-isolating and experts predicting that the peak of infections is yet to come. Read more

In Italy, the problem of infected health workers – more than 12,800 according to data collected last week – is made worse by the suspension of doctors, nurses and administrative staff who are not vaccinated and represent just over 4% of the total workforce.

On January 7, Britain called on its military to help deal with a COVID hospital staff shortage. Read more

Italy reported 101,762 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, up from 155,659 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of coronavirus-related deaths fell from 157 to 227.

Italy has recorded 139,265 virus-related deaths since the onset of its outbreak in February 2020 and has reported 7.55 million cases to date. Read more

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Reporting by Emilio Parodi, editing by Gavin Jones and Jonathan Oatis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.