Russian medical personnel have participated in the disinfection of various nursing homes where the highest mortality rate in Bergamo (18.2%) was recorded. Now 32 Russian virologists, together with their Italian colleagues, are treating coronavirus patients in a new field hospital set up at the Bergamo Fair.
Thus began the Russian team's second phase of work, which arrived in Italy as part of an agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Oliviero Valoti, Bergamo Field Hospital's chief doctor, has shared his views on how Russian specialists are working in Italy, as well as what results they’ve managed to achieve.
Sputnik: How do you assess the work of the Russian virologists? From the perspective of health procedures, was it easy to interact with the Russian team?
Oliviero Valoti: From a professional point of view, our Russian colleagues are certainly high-level specialists. Obviously, at the beginning we had to understand how much they could do and whether their methods were in line with our standards regarding intensive care. In a very short time we realised that their way of working was absolutely aligned with what we do.
I must say that we were very lucky, because a Russian doctor, who had been living in Italy for 20 years, worked in our intensive care unit in Bergamo. In the early days, she stayed to work in the field hospital set up at the fair, helping us to communicate with our colleagues from the Russian Armed Forces, which was great, since she managed to quickly lift the language barrier.
At the same time, the Russian team is always accompanied by excellent translators who also have great command of medical terminology.
Sputnik: The Bergamo Field Hospital is designed for 142 patients, with 72 of them being in intensive and sub-intensive care. Could you tell us more about what the Russian specialists are dealing with now? What kind of job have you assigned them with?
Oliviero Valoti: Up until now we have entrusted this group of Russian specialists with intensive and sub-intensive care patients. These are patients who need serious treatment: they are either intubated and therefore need ventilation, or they are weaning from respiratory support and are just starting to breathe autonomously.
And then there are also patients who need respiratory support with additional oxygen; they can be considered sub-intensive care patients. I’d say they are 50 percent of one type and 50 percent of the other type.
Not so long ago, we got another group of Russian specialists, whom my colleagues call “general practitioners”, which is not very common here. We’ve realised that they are general practitioners, not intensive care doctors, and can take care of less serious patients. They have also started collaborating with Italian doctors and nurses in the hospital; and I must say that they are helping us a lot, because they help reduce the load and evenly distribute the number of shifts.
Sputnik: Do you manage to work together? Is there any tension or competition between doctors?
Oliviero Valoti: Absolutely not, there’re absolutely no problems. The doctors are interacting well and discussing possible treatment options together. I’d say they have a great relationship.
Sputnik: Is it possible to make first assessments? Have the Russian doctors managed to help you reduce the load in the intensive care units?
Oliviero Valoti: We’ve managed to perfect our interaction with the Russian doctors and together we’ve reduced the load on the intensive care units in the main hospital building. We’ve also managed to transfer to the department several patients admitted to the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, and this has certainly unloaded the entire hospital.
Sputnik: How many patients have already been transferred to the department of the Russian doctors?
Oliviero Valoti: To date, 29 patients have been transferred to the intensive care unit managed by our Russian colleagues.
Sputnik: Have the Russian doctors used any new methods or innovative equipment against the coronavirus that have helped Bergamo cope with the emergency?
Oliviero Valoti: I haven’t seen any particular innovative methods. I must say, however, that they brought several dozen ventilators for treating patients, 29 in total. We can say that they are now enough. Also, all the other intensive care equipment at this temporary hospital has also been brought by our Russian colleagues.
Sputnik: Fortunately, the virus' spread in Bergamo is slowing down; for the first time in 40 days, there are no new coffins in the city church. How long do you think you’re going to need the support of the Russian doctors?
Oliviero Valoti: Personally, I think it would be important to have their support until what we call “Stage 2” begins. We must understand what will happen when we gradually return to normal life. Actually, I’m concerned that people will start going out again, because we have yet to understand whether the epidemic will worsen when people start going out again.
It would be great to be able to get help from Russian doctors until we are sure that there will be no new outbreak and, consequently, no new patients who need intensive care. As soon as everything is settled, of course, they will go back home.
Sputnik: The other day, the Italian foreign minister announced that in the coming weeks, new flights from Russia will deliver mechanical ventilation devices to Italy. Do you still feel the shortage of medical equipment? Do you need further support from Russia?
Oliviero Valoti: I don’t think we still need it in Bergamo, because the intensive care units, which were urgently “deployed” to receive serious patients, will soon be closed and dismantled. We have several hospitals that, if necessary, can be equipped with all the equipment brought by our Russian colleagues; some of the equipment will be stored separately.
Therefore, I think there is no further need, unless, of course, this virus gives us some new surprises. Alas, since this is a new disease, no one can know this.
Sputnik: I also hope that you will no longer need new equipment and that we will all soon get out of this emergency... Thank you for your work!
Oliviero Valoti: Thank you too, thanks to Russia and the Russians!