A widely shared photo of a nurse slumped over her desk at a hospital in Italy has brought to light the tremendous stress the country’s health workers have been under, fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The image is of Elena Pagliarini, a nurse in the Lombardy region, which is the worst hit by the virus.
Lombardy, normally the economic heart of Italy, has put several workers like Pagliarini under severe stress. She is also one of many healthcare workers who is worried about at the negative impact of Covid-19 on healthcare facilities and personnel. “On one hand I was annoyed to see my photo everywhere, I was ashamed of showing my weakness,” Pagliarini told the Corriere della Sera newspaper. “But then I was happy because I got beautiful messages from people who empathised with my story,” she added.
“I actually don’t feel physically tired, I can work for 24 hours straight if it’s necessary but I won’t hide the fact that right now I’m anxious because I’m fighting an enemy that I don’t know,” she said.
And a doctor in the northern city Bergamo, (also in Lombardy) wrote in a widely-shared Facebook post that he has not been home for almost two weeks.
“It’s almost two weeks since I’ve seen my son or my family because I’m worried about infecting them,” Dr Daniele Macchini wrote. “I settle for some photos of my son which I look at through my tears, and a few video calls.”
Another nurse in Tuscany, Alessia Bonari, posted an image on Instagram of her face bearing marks due to wearing a protective mask all day at work. Her caption read: “I’m worried because the mask might not be fitting right on my face, I might touch myself accidentally with dirty gloves, the glasses might not totally cover my eyes.”
Bonari further underlined the psychological stress and physical fatigue experienced by her colleagues due to the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak. The doctors and hospital staff were suffering from “fear of making mistakes, of being infected, of not being able to carry on in these conditions,” she wrote.
According to Italian media, 50 doctors were tested positive of the virus alone in the Northern town of Bergamo. Another 76 employees were quarantined in a hospital in the Puglia region after they came in contact with patients who tested positive.
To counter the mental stress caused at such times, the San Giovanni Bosco hospital in Turin introduced a mental health team of 20 psychologists to help its staff deal with the stress of the current situation. “All those who need it can come forward, we’re there for everyone,” Monica Agnesone, one of the psychologists, La Stampa newspaper.
Some 62 million people in the cultural and economic heart of northern Italy have been put under lockdown in order to arrest the spread of the virus that had killed 631 individuals with over 21,000 infections in the country.