Amnesty International denounces the violations of human rights during the Covid 19 pandemic, especially in the social, health and social welfare residences, the RSAs, and asks for the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry.
In the spring of 2020, the right to life, health and non-discrimination for the elderly who died by the thousands were threatened and violated. Right to freedom of expression, freedom of association, healthy and safe working conditions for workers in senior centers. Social, health and social care workers who first fought with their bare hands (literally: there were no protective devices, masks or tampons) against the pandemic, then they suffered discrimination, intimidation, up to unjust dismissals, when they tried to tell the working conditions into which they were forced, he reports amnesty international.
The association released two documents, one in December 2020 and the other in October this year.
Abandon yourself, is the title of the report published in December 2020 on the elderly who lost their lives in nursing homes. Within these structures Amnesty found violations and lack of protection of the right to life, health and non-discrimination of elderly patients by institutions, at national, regional and local level. (1)
'In responding to the pandemic, the Italian government and the authorities regional failed to take timely measures to protect the life and rights of older people in residential social and health care facilities and, in fact, have adopted policies and allowed practices that put life and safety at risk both guests and health workers.
These decisions and policies have produced or contributed to determining human rights violations resident elderly guests, in particular the right to life, health and non-discrimination. They have also had an impact on the rights to private and family life of the guests of the facilities and it is possible that, in some cases, they have violated their right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.', (Amnesty, Abandoned).
The protective measures, swabs, infection control procedures were only adopted when the epidemic was rampant. The director of a Milan facility says: 'We in the RSA have been abandoned; we have been placed in high-risk situations for which we lacked the skills and received no guidance, no support'.
The impact of the pandemic on the RSA it was devastating. In the beginning there were no masks and personal protective equipment. Most senior centers were unable to access tampons until after the virus was at its peak. In most cases, there were no systems to adequately isolate infected or potentially infected patients. There was a lack of staff and what was there was subjected to grueling shifts.
Manager of a socio-sanitary residential structure for elderly people expressed himself as follows: 'We fought fires without fire extinguishers and with our hands tied behind our backs'.
Staff from various facilities told Amnesty International of having received Dpi only in the first half of April, now after the death of thousands of guests due to Covid.
The shortage of devices protection, says the association, is certainly a problem that has affected the whole of Europe. Hospitals were given priority over RSAs. However, what emerges from the complaints collected by Amnesty is that equal access to hospital care was not guaranteed for the elderly guests of the RSAs suspected of being infected, despite the serious critical situation in which the overworked hospitals found themselves. That there has been 'a general refusal towards RSA guests over XNUMX years old'. In short: the elderly were not accepted tour court, without there being an individual clinical evaluation.
Again are the words of the survivors to tell well what happened.
'After strong insistence, my mother was on 8 May transferred to hospital at the end of her life', says the daughter of a resident who survived Covid in an RSA in Milan. 'In RSA I have been told repeatedly that there was nothing to be done. However, according to the emergency room doctor at the hospital, the problem was blood septicemia, kidney failure due to dehydration and malnutrition. In the infectious disease ward of the hospital they worked wonders and she did it. Now, however, she has withdrawn into herself, he is 75 years old but has lost 20 years of life. Half the people in the ward died where my mother was'.
The consequences were also tragic for the elderly survivors of the pandemic, who suffered from impaired motor and cognitive functions, loss of appetite, depression and a general loss of the will and desire to live, with a particularly significant impact for those who suffered from dementia or Alzheimer's.
When the workers some centers for the elderly tried to tell what happened, they were 'silenced'. The second one dossier di Amnesty sheds light on what happened to health and social health workers and workers who raised the alarm on inadequate working and safety conditions in centers for the elderly and have undergone disciplinary proceedings. Between February and August 2021, Amnesty spoke with 34 workers and workers serving in residential facilities during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as with lawyers, industry experts and trade unionists (2).
Workers they experienced a climate of terror, with constant fear of retaliation. They have been subjected to retaliation for criticizing the response to the pandemic from Covid-19. Some have suffered disciplinary proceedings and layoffs, because they claimed that the structures had hidden information on infections among the elderly and workers and prevented the use of masks in the workplace. Almost one in three workers reported a climate of fear. The employers have imposed silence and taken anti-union measures.
A nurse under contract in a private nursing home in Lombardy stated: 'Cooperatives and public structures have gagged people who reported or spoke to the press'.
A nurse of a Milanese public structure: 'There have been various retaliations lately and we are all on high alert. We were told not to use the masks so as not to panic users and families, but we were already in full Covid, in late February or early March . We rebelled and filed a complaint against the person who warned us not to use masks. I was placed in preventive quarantine for political reasons and on my return I had to swab. Other colleagues were also turned away in this way. The repercussions began immediately after the complaints. Often colleagues have been moved from department to office and turned away in retaliation. I too received disciplinary measures for participating in a demonstration'. (2)
All this it intervenes in a sector with poor unionization, with a fragmentation of unions and contracts, which has created isolation among the workers. The social, health and social welfare sector is very feminized, 85% of workers are women, 12% have a background migratory, many workers are precarious or part time, with outsourced contracts and lower than average salaries for a public health nurse.
They are workers, again, who have undergone grueling work shifts and night shifts for several consecutive days without adequate rest periods.
'Sometimes I worked up to 16 hours a day, or I worked the night shift and then worked again the next day without rest, or I did three or four consecutive nights, which is also illegal ', says another nurse.
Someone denounces post traumatic stress symptoms and nightmares.
Amnesty asks the Italian parliament to 'set up a parliamentary inquiry commission aimed at conducting an investigation into the authorities' response to the pandemic, with a specific focus on residential, social, health and social care facilities for elderly people. That commission - says the association - should investigate violations and abuses of the right to life, health and non-discrimination suffered by older people in residential settings "as well as problems in the care sector and concerns expressed by workers and trade unions regarding healthy working conditions, safe, fair and dignified '.
(1) Amnesty International. Abandon yourself. Violation of the right to life, health and non-discrimination of elderly people in social, health and social welfare structures in Italy during the pandemic, December 17, 2020 https://d21zrvtkxtd6ae.cloudfront.net/public/uploads/2020/12/report-rsa-anziani-.pdf
(2) Amnesty International. Silenced and unheard in full pandemic, October 22, 2021 https://d21zrvtkxtd6ae.cloudfront.net/public/uploads/2020/12/Messi-a-tacere-e-inascoltati.pdf
(3) Amnesty, the appeal: https://www.amnesty.it/appelli/firma-diritto-salute-anziani-case-di-riposo/