Mafia corruption puts Italian healthcare system in ’state of emergency’

The Mafia has been accused of bleeding Italy’s health system dry, following a series of deaths linked to the crumbling state of hospitals in the south of the country.

The Governor of the Calabria region, Agazio Loiero, today closed wards and declared a “state of emergency” in his health system.

He is calling on state intervention to combat corruption, boost treatment standards – and prevent further needless deaths.

The latest victim, 16-year-old Eva Ruscio, died at the Vibo Valentia Hospital on 5 November just two days after a routine tonsil operation.

A confidential report into health system’s missing millions by the Guardia di Finanzia, the police attached to Italy’s finance ministry, is said to conclude that the mob hasn’t simply infiltrated the Vibo Valentia Hospital – it effectively runs it.

According to senator Ignazio Marino, who is leading a parliamentary investigation at the request of health minister Livia Turco into events at the hospital, “a lack of adequate equipment” played a part in Eva’s death.

But according to leading mafia observer, Francesco Grignetti, writing in La Stampa newspaper, “the thing that plagued Eva has a precise name: ‘Ndrangheta’ [the feared Calabrian crime syndicate].”

“In Calabria, healthcare absorbs 80 per cent of public funding; it’s obvious that ‘Ndrangheta is going to be involved,” he said.

He names three of the clans involved.

Two Calabrian health workers with links to these families have been arrested for mafia involvement and corruption.

Several other managers have faced similar charges.

Around 100 more are still thought to be employed by the region’s hospitals, however.

The mob creams off most of the money by ensuring that lucrative contracts go to companies it runs or owns – often in exchange for poor quality goods or services, or sometimes nothing at all.

Governor Loiero said: “That the situation is grave has been confirmed by government inspectors invited to the hospital after the death of Eva.”

On 20 January this year another 16-year-old student, Federica Monteleone, went into a coma and died after an appendix operation, also at the Vibo Valentia Hospital.

In October a 12-year-old boy, Flavio Scutella, died from a head injury at another Calabrian hospital after doctors spent hours desperately seraching for an ambulance to transport him elsewhere for vital surgery.

As a result of the State of Emergency” declared by Loiero, many hospital departments that provide non-emergency care have been closed until they provide assurances of the quality of care they provide.

Loeiro said from now on Calabria was adopting an attitude of “zero tolerance” to poor hospital care.

He added that lazy, inept doctors were also, in part, to blame.

“In Calabria, next to excellent doctors there are also those who perform casually, thinking more about their private work than their public duties. We’ve had enough,” he said.

Mafia corruption puts Italian healthcare system in ‘state of emergency’ – By MICHAEL DAY – Last updated at 16:52pm on 12th December 2007 – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=501529&in_page_id=1811