Protection at Florence’s ER ‘War Zones’

As a reaction to the dangerous nighttime environment in the emergency rooms of Santa Maria Nuova and Careggi Hospital, city council has approved a motion designed to provide 24 hr. police attendants. This step is being taken to ensure the safety of patients, doctors, nurses, and volunteers, from aggressive patients during the late shift.

In the past year, there have been around 1,300 patients admitted to Santa Maria Nuova emergency room under the influence of drugs and alcohol. It is no secret that the altered psychological state of these patients contributes to the amount of hostile behavior the employees must endure, and the understaffed ERs cannot afford to continually put their employees in these high-risk situations. Last October, a 55 year old male patient threatened nurses, almost attacked a doctor, and threw a desk during an altercation.

The Mayor Nardella is meeting with COSP (Comitato Provinciale per l’Ordine e la Sicurezza Pubblica, a committee of high-ranking Florence-based police officials) to discuss how to implement this welcome change.  (anna rosin)

To read more in Italian, visit Florence’s La Repubblica’s newsite.


The mix of destructive patients and lack of staff makes the Santa Maria Nuova emergency room a war zone for the doctors and nurses. This ER is the smallest in the city of Florence, but is surrounded by nightclubs and bars making it a hub for drunk and disorderly patients.

Working there is not just a matter of dealing with those that look for help, but staying safe. Between the mix of underage drinkers and 25-40 year old Italians, doctors and nurses are being attacked by those they try to help.

The staff is mostly women rather than men. The schedule is organized so that there is a man on every night shift because of security issues. When patients are ripping out IV drips and attempt escapes, the hospital finds it necessary to have extra muscle on staff to stop them.

The doctors and nurses grow frustrated while 50-year-olds coked out and young patients who continually abuse alcohol reappear in the waiting room.   These people are no longer considered as real emergencies, but those who have decided to waste their life.

A few nights a week, volunteers from a non-profit drug rehabilitation center come to assist handling the patients.  The hospital is  left understaffed when the volunteers can’t help.

Are beds, stretchers and public resources are being squandered?   Are personnel working in vain knowing that the same patients will return after once again after choosing to drink or take the drug of their choice?

To read more in Italian see, Florence’s La Repubblica news site. (deanna carbone)