By definition, hospitals should be among the places with the highest safety index (1). But often, on these premises, we have occasional accidents which may be dangerous and which illustrate the way hospitals are exposed to various and often undervalued risks.
The incidences of unforeseen, dangerous situations involving sudden accidents, of uncontrollable emergency conditions and also of larger catastrophes are awful. Recent accidents proved inadequate safety inside hospitals. In Parma (2) escaping gas was followed by an explosion that destroyed a division of the hospital and resulted in wounded and dead. In Mondovi, an explosion in the central heating system of the hospital caused the death of an employee. A fire that broke out in an old people's home in Southern Italy brought about the death of three persons. The first shocks of the earthquake in 1980 caused the death of many patients and staff (including six physicians) in the so called “safe” hospital of San Angelo Dei Lombardi. In the earthquake in 1976 many patients and some personnel of the hospital staff in Gemona, Friuli lost their lives (3)
Apparently these facts are not closely linked together. Some were caused by human error, others by inadequacy of buildings, age of structures, even where the disaster was due to natural causes. However all these events show the presence of the common denominator of “high risk,” typical of hospital structures (4,5). The principle dangerous situations are: (a) risks coming from the structures of the premises (no earthquake-proof principles of modular structure); and (b) risks connected with the working activities (6,7).