The emergency units in Italian hospitals are being over-used by people who do not need emergency treatment, according to the national tribunal for the rights of citizens. Only 17 per cent of the cases being dealt with in Italian hospitals are considered to be urgent, or moderately urgent, and in many cases the patient requires only basic first-aid and could have been treated at home. Stefano Inglese, who is responsible for the citizens' rights group, says that the problem stems from a lack of continuous medical assistance within the community. Hospitals are being used as doctors' surgeries at weekends and at night even though the service of a guardia medica, an emergency doctor service, should be available to everyone at those times and also during public holidays.
The mis-use of the hospital emergency units means that long queues form and patients who are not regarded as urgent cases are having to wait for up to five hours before they are seen by a doctor.