Published online Jan 25, 2022. doi: 10.5501/wjv.v11.i1.73
Peer-review started: March 11, 2021
First decision: July 15, 2021
Revised: August 13, 2021
Accepted: January 3, 2022
Article in press: January 6, 2022
Published online: January 25, 2022
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic forced a re-organization of mental health services at all levels of care. However, most accounts of changes occurring in Italy during the pandemic have been mainly narrative with little reliance on data.
The present study was based on a quantitative data-driven approach to the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on admissions to an inpatient psychiatric unit in Italy.
To explore changes in number of psychiatric admissions to an inpatient psychiatric unit during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and to identify relevant factors associated with the detected changes in comparison with the same time period of 2019.
All admissions were recorded to an inpatient psychiatric unit between February 24 and May 24, 2020 and compared with those occurring over the same time period in 2019. A 20-item checklist was completed to identify relevant factors leading to hospital admission.
During the COVID-19 pandemic hospital admissions dropped significantly compared to 2019 and were more likely to be related to difficulties in organizing care outside the hospital and in patients' family context. On the other hand, admissions related to logistic and communication difficulties pertaining to residential facilities were more common in 2019, due to the re-organization of these facilities as close communities looking after their own patients during the pandemic.
Mental health services in general, and hospital psychiatry in particular, were forced to face new and different challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Italian community-based model of care with a multidisciplinary team serving a well-defined catchment area had the potential to ensure a proper and rapid re-organization of mental health service activities.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic is slowly decreasing and the associated limitations persist, the detected changes are expected to last and turn into the usual way of working. Therefore, an ongoing evaluation of mental health service organization, activities and requirements is mandatory to sustain and improve actual efforts.