On Tuesday 731 new deaths were reported in Italy, Europe’s highest toll.

The country has been badly hit by the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, but there is another problem on top of that – a shortage of medical staff.

The country is not suffering from a shortage of equipment. There are enough intensive care units to deal with the recent upswing in hospital admissions and the government has ordered even more.

Carlo Palermo, leader of the doctors union Anaao Assomed, said on Monday: “The problem we are facing is that only specialists can work inside intensive care units. That includes both specialised doctors and nurses. Figures are not encouraging though, we need 2,000 doctors who can operate breathing machines.”

Medical students have been fast-tracked, but there are not enough of them, The government is pleading for Italian doctors and nurses working abroad to come home and join the struggle, but that might not be enough either.

Italy spends much less than its European neighbours on medical investments, and the chickens have now come home to roost.

FILE PHOTO: A woman possibly suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is carried on a stretcher by White Cross rescue workers in front of her home in Giussano, near Monza, Italy November 16, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo