Emergency Department and Out-of-Hospital Emergency System (112-AREU 118) integrated response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 in a Northern Italy centre

COVID19 IRCCS San Matteo Pavia Task Force

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since December 2019, the world has been facing the life-threatening disease, named Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The response of the Emergency Medicine network, integrating "out-of-hospital" and "hospital" activation, is crucial whenever the health system has to face a medical emergency, being caused by natural or human-derived disasters as well as by a rapidly spreading epidemic outbreak. We here report the Pavia Emergency Medicine network response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The "out-of-hospital" response was analysed in terms of calls, rescues and missions, whereas the "hospital" response was detailed as number of admitted patients and subsequent hospitalisation or discharge. The data in the first 5 weeks of the Covid-19 outbreak (February 21-March 26, 2020) were compared with a reference time window referring to the previous 5 weeks (January 17-February 20, 2020) and with the corresponding historical average data from the previous 5 years (February 21-March 26). Since February 21, 2020, a sudden and sustained increase in the calls to the AREU 112 system was noted (+ 440%). After 5 weeks, the number of calls and missions was still higher as compared to both the reference pre-Covid-19 period (+ 48% and + 10%, respectively) and the historical control (+ 53% and + 22%, respectively). Owing to the overflow from the neighbouring hospitals, which rapidly became overwhelmed and had to temporarily close patient access, the population served by the Pavia system more than doubled (from 547.251 to 1.135.977 inhabitants, + 108%). To minimize the possibility of intra-hospital spreading of the infection, a separate "Emergency Department-Infective Disease" was created, which evaluated 1241 patients with suspected infection (38% of total ED admissions). Out of these 1241 patients, 58.0% (n = 720) were admitted in general wards (n = 629) or intensive care unit (n = 91). To allow this massive number of admissions, the hospital reshaped many general ward Units, which became Covid-19 Units (up to 270 beds) and increased the intensive care unit beds from 32 to 60. In the setting of a long-standing continuing emergency like the present Covid-19 outbreak, the integration, interaction and team work of the "out-of-hospital" and "in-hospital" systems have a pivotal role. The present study reports how the rapid and coordinated reorganization of both might help in facing such a disaster. AREU-112 and the Emergency Department should be ready to finely tune their usual cooperation to respond to a sudden and overwhelming increase in the healthcare needs brought about by a pandemia like the current one. This lesson should shape and reinforce the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)825-833
Number of pages9
JournalInternal and Emergency Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Covid-19
  • Emergency department
  • Emergency medical system
  • Emergency medical system organization
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Emergency Medicine


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