War on wards of Naples' hospital ruled by drugs

When the Italian Health Minister, Rosy Bindi, visited the Cotugno hospital in Naples yesterday, she found the place swarming with police. It was not just her security that they were looking out for; they had been mobilised by the government to bring a semblance of order to a hospital where drugs are openly traded in the wards and addicts regularly threaten the staff with used syringes stained with their HIV-infected blood.

The Cotugno, which specialises in infectious diseases, is the only public institution in southern Italy which accepts Aids patients, but over the past two years it has become a byword for mayhem and the deep malaise at the heart of the Italian health system. The crisis reached its peak four days ago, when an Aids patient died of a heroin overdose and two others were whisked into intensive care. They, too, had bought the drugs on the premises.

The police were ordered in by the local government prefect, Achile Catalani, on the advice of the health and interior ministries. "We don't intend to turn the place into a military camp," Mr Catalani said. "But there will be at least two law officers on site at all times to ensure full surveillance around the clock."

The Cotugno was originally intended to be part of a new wave of health care in the Naples region, a clean, efficient hospital providing well- administered specialist care - in stark contrast to the main general hospital, the Cardarelli, where rats have the run of the wards, bodies mysteriously disappear from the morgue, and patients have been known to die because the operating theatre ran out of stitching thread.

Only last week, a 15-year-old boy infected with botulism from a rogue tub of mascarpone cheese died at the Cardarelli because the authorities had forgotten to check supplies and were unable to treat him.

Unfortunately, the Cotugno has never lived up to its hopes of being significantly different, and its Aids wards have rapidly run out of control, partly because the patients are nearly all drug addicts with violent, if not criminal, tendencies, and partly because the numbers have become too big to handle.

In March last year, Aids patients rebelled against their conditions by flinging furniture and food out of the windows. They were provided with new beds and television sets, but the improvements turned out to be little more than window dressing. Two new Aids wards have been opened since, but without the resources to provide even a minimum level of civilised care.

A week ago, a doctor almost died when a patient set fire to a mattress and tossed it into his office. Nurses complain that they are attacked with blood-stained needles. It has been an open secret that drugs pushers do the rounds of the wards during visiting hours. But this is also a city where many hospital orderlies are ex-convicts helped into public- sector jobs by the local Mafia, which in turn controls the drugs trade.

Staff have little faith that the police presence will change much. "It will last two weeks," predicted one nurse. "Then, when the media fuss has died down, it will be hell all over again."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind"

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album