Thea, the Covid Hotel doctor: “Being among the refugees helped me”


First in Iraq among Yazidi women who fled ISIS, then in prisons in Malawi, among TB and AIDS patients. I had come back to organize my wedding, I never imagined I would stay in Italy to deal with an emergency at home. Thea Scognamiglio the hygienist doctor who coordinates the Ats team, the former ASL, at the Michelangelo in Milan, at the end of March the first in Europe to open up to people in quarantine for Covid. On the track from early morning, to the bitter end. There is no night, no Saturday. Answers sent by email to some guests until late in the evening on the mobile. Words of one who strives to find solutions. Ash blonde braid on the shoulder, necklace of shells from Lake Malawi on the neck and sneakers on the feet, he looks younger than his 35 years. We should only deal with tampons here, in reality we are dealing with the most diverse problems, from the resignation of homeless people to people who are pressing to be accepted. But dedication and flexibility are not widespread only among blue coats. There are green uniforms, nurses for monitoring quarantinates. And the white coats, the logistics workers, of the Proges cooperative. the manager, Luigi Regalia, to welcome the new arrivals. He is seen running with a bag of biscuits and candy intended to sweeten a child’s living room. Also pampered by Corinna, the receptionist, who surprisingly gives him books of her favorite. Blues, greens and whites: many colors as notes of a single symphony. For us this is more than a job. Who does not have this spirit does not resist.

What is the motivation of a direct descendant of the Agnelli family, who chose to be a doctor, moreover in crisis situations?
I feel good when I feel useful and I like being able to be so with atypical professionalism in my family. I wanted to be me, find my way. My father (Carlo Scognamiglio, economist, former president of the Senate and minister of the D’Alema government, ed) has always spurred me and my brother to create a strong professional identity. If I had chosen economics I would have felt crushed by his figure. I was interested in journalism but my mother (Delfina Rattazzi, journalist and writer, daughter of Susanna Agnelli, ed) dissuaded me: it does not guarantee economic independence, he said. So I chose medicine. And while my cousins ​​went to parties and holidays, I was locked in the house studying anatomy.

His first field experience was in the summer of 2016, among refugees trapped in Greece after the EU-Turkey agreement. What’s left?
l that I learned to react to the sense of frustration that assails you in difficult contexts. I searched among all those needs that hurt me one I could answer. I focused on the scabies epidemic in the fields, from the disinfection of tents to the tracing of contacts, something that nobody did. The frustration thus vanished, replaced by the desire to do better. This is why I enrolled in a public health master at the John Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health in Baltimore: knowing how to deal with large-scale health emergencies requires specific skills and competences.

After completing his master’s degree in January, he left Iraqi Kurdistan among Yazidi women who fled ISIS. Thousands of girls traumatized by torture and abuse suffered: this mental health crisis, one of the heaviest in history, has attracted many organizations, but coordination was lacking. I did it as a consultant for the establishment of a public health control room.

How did your experience in humanitarian emergency areas from Iraq to Malawi help you organize the one at home, here at Michelangelo?
In Kurdistan, Dr. Baktiar said that any project with a breath of over a year does not work. Here is what I saw in the Covid emergency. How long will Michelangelo last? How long will we go on swabs and won’t there be a vaccine? Health emergencies are similar, they are all to be planned in the short term.

Why don’t you have serological tests available here?
In Lombardy we discount the effects of the Maroni reform (in 2015, ed) which has separated and divided the departments into Ats, the coordinating body, the brain on one side and Asst, the hospitals, the arms on the other, emptying the territory of health services. Do you think that in the management of Michelangelo’s tampons 5 different parts of the Lombard health system are involved. The organizational challenge becomes that of coordination: when there are multiple parties, this is one of the most critical aspects in emergencies.

Let’s go back to her, or rather to you: when the wedding?
We postponed them to September 12th. But we still don’t know if all the guests will be able to reach us. Honeymoon? Francesco and I wanted to go to the North Pole, who knows, maybe we could do it on skis from Canada. Seriously, it became too early to decide. We have changed the horizon. Like everyone else.

May 22, 2020 (change May 22, 2020 | 11:20 pm)


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