To fight the spread of Covid-19 among the most vulnerable people in society, we provide medical consultation and socio-medical education for homeless people in the Milan area.
Areas of activity
The project is part of a tender we were awarded by the municipal council of Milan, in partnership with Spazio Aperto Servizi, which consists of two specific areas of activity:
Area A: protecting the right to health of seriously marginalised people and running consultation services in the homeless shelter system as agreed with the council.
Area B: socio-medical operations at the shelter at Viale Fulvio Testi 302, for isolating people who have symptoms or have had close contact with confirmed cases.
Medical processing, consultation and education at Centro Sammartini
Since December 2020 there has been an EMERGENCY team offering medical assistance and education at a help desk at Centro Sammartini (formerly Centro Aiuto Stazione Centrale), a service run by Milan council for adults and anyone just arrived in the city and in need of advice for starting out (on everything from spending the night in shelters to making requests for international protection).
A lot of people are not signed up to the national health service, even though they are entitled to be, which can be for a number of reasons: they may not know their rights, they may struggle with the language or culture, or there may be administrative barriers.
EMERGENCY provides a full-time cultural mediator, a part-time cultural mediator and a nurse, and there is a socio-medical worker from Spazio Aperto Servizi tasked with triage and and with assessing whether patients have Covid-19-like symptoms, so they can be properly managed.
EMERGENCY’s workers help people who could get signed up to the national health service, informing them of the paths and more generally the administrative procedures they need to follow and helping them along and through them. People who are in need of treatment but cannot sign up to the national health service are sent over to EMERGENCY workers at the help desk on the Politruck.
Thanks to the nurse’s work, people can be processed medically, so they can get a grasp of the procedures they need to follow for treatment. Every service is run in close collaboration with the facility’s socio-medical team.
Covid-19 swabs for vulnerable people
In January 2021 the work at the help desk was bolstered by a quick, free swab service outside the centre, run by the local health authority in collaboration with the municipal council. This is done in a tent set up four times a week.
The aim is to let homeless people get into shelters faster and safely when they ask for a bed, and really cut waiting times for places to spend the night.
Those who test positive after the quick swab go through the procedure of entering the local health authority’s ‘Covid Hotel’ for isolation. Suspected cases who cannot get a swab within the hour or day specified by Centro Sammartini and cannot isolate themselves there are referred to the shelter on Viale Fulvio Testi.
Assistance and monitoring at shelters
In the same area of activity (Area A), we help manage things at homeless shelters in Milan.
Our medical and logistical staff give consultation on sanitation and prevention measures, handling the flow of clean and dirty items, separation of spaces and inside and outside support services (meals, cleaning, laundry, rubbish and so on), in line with the measures suggested by the Ministry of Health for containing the virus.
Workers and residents are told the proper way to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and technical support with isolating residents is given when needed.
Finally, training sessions are organised for the facility’s staff, to go into more depth on preventive action and habits to adopt, so the emergency can be handled better, with effective, progressive guidelines and procedures that will limit the risk of contagion.
This area of activity within the tender picks up on the work our multidisciplinary teams were doing in our shelter project with Milan council back in March 2020, just after the pandemic broke out.
The project involves inspections, specialist consultation and monitoring at shelters for homeless people and unaccompanied migrant children and those in the SIPROIMI (formerly SPRAR) system.
In places like these, whose residents often do not have access to even the most basic information, respecting and properly enforcing rules for preventing contagion are needed now more than ever to stop the virus spreading.
We write a report offering solutions, assess whether further support is needed, and flag up changes that the council need to make to shelters in order to protect the health of their staff and residents.
After this we set out the next steps to be taken: whether to do a follow-up visit or call or bring the work to an end.
Running an isolation facility on Viale Fulvio Testi
The shelter on Viale Fulvio Testi hosts people from different shelters in the municipality who have Covid-19-like symptoms, while they wait for swab tests, or who have had close contact with confirmed cases and cannot isolate themselves at their own shelter.
Inside the buildings, EMERGENCY’s medical and logistical workers oversee the medical conditions for residents, organise spaces and work flows with specific guidelines for managing and preventing the risk posed by the epidemic. They also maintain relationships with the local health authorities to do swabs and refer confirmed cases to the Covid Hotel.
This building has 12 beds and a ward set up and kitted out for basic medicine and first aid. It is run jointly with staff from Spazio Aperto Servizi and its point is to limit contagion in the shelters its patients come from and to provide a place of medical and social protection.
In agreement with the Municipality, the facility started the activities from the end of February 2021, to offer further support in the coordination system of the shelters for unaccompanied migrant children.
At Fulvio Testi shelter, and in collaboration with the Services Center for unaccompanied minors (a first reception and assistance focal point that gathers together all the services dedicated to them), we provide swabs to minors in the afternoon and we guarantee any overnight stay while waiting for molecular test results.
Support our work
We do know – during very difficult times such as this one – it is essential to not leave anyone behind. That’s why we want to do everything we can to help the country get through this. To do that, we need your help once more.
This project has been made possible also thanks to: