Health and Healthcare Systems

In pictures: Inside an Italian hospital's COVID-19 unit

Members of the medical staff in protective suits walk along a corridor in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, Italy, March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo - RC2ESF9PA98G

Nearly 9,000 doctors and nurses in Italy have been infected by the novel coronavirus. Image: REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

Douglas Broom
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COVID-19

  • Medics battle to save COVID-19 patients in Milan.
  • In Italy, around 8,000 doctors and nurses have been infected and over 60 have died.
  • The San Raffaele Hospital is conducting vital research as well as treating patients.

Clad head-to-toe in protective blue clothing, the team at Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital works around the clock to help patients critically ill with the COVID-19 coronavirus. It’s an exhausting, harrowing job.

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Many doctors and nurses have been infected themselves. Across Italy, roughly 8,300 have tested positive for the virus. More than 60 have died. But they carry on regardless.

As of 5 April, the country had recorded over nearly 130,000 cases of the coronavirus in total, with the hardest hit areas in the north, where San Raffaele is located. It’s a dire situation, but there is some hope.

Members of the medical staff in protective suits treat a patient suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in an intensive care unit at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, Italy, March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo - RC2ESF9ZA9OI
The north of the country has been the worst affected area. Image: REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

In addition to treating patients with COVID-19, San Raffaele – a university hospital – is using the clinical data it generates to help increase scientific understanding of the virus and its effects.

The hospital’s medical researchers are attempting to find clinical indicators that could help predict the course of the disease and aid in the discovery of effective drugs.

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Professor Fabio Ciceri, deputy research director at San Raffaele, believes such high-quality studies are key to finding scientifically valid answers about how to treat the disease.

The current lack of hard data and analysis, he says, is causing confusion about the nature of the disease among both the public and the medical profession – especially as COVID-19 shows such great clinical variability.

Members of the medical staff in protective suits pose for a photo in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, Italy, March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo - RC2ESF93G400
Italian doctors try to keep their spirits up. Image: REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

San Raffaele’s research to date has found 80% of patients suffer either minor symptoms of the disease or none at all. But in the remaining 20% the virus causes severe pneumonia. Many recover with oxygen alone, says Ciceri, but others need intensive medical treatment.

As the battle against the coronavirus continues, San Raffaele Hospital continues its work on the front line. It has boosted its capacity to treat patients with COVID-19 with a new $4.7 million intensive care unit, which was built in just eight days and funded through hundreds of thousands of donations.

SENSITIVE MATERIAL. THIS IMAGE MAY OFFEND OR DISTURB  Members of the medical staff in protective suits treat patients suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in an intensive care unit at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, Italy, March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo - RC2ESF9J1CMM
Human determination is at the core of fight to tackle the coronavirus crisis. Image: REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo
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