The “Henry Reeve” Cuban Brigade is a group of doctors, nurses and epidemiologists who have treated patients hospitalized for Covid at the Officine Grandi Riparazioni in Turin since April.
The OGRs are a former industrial complex, converted in the last decade into a huge multipurpose space dedicated to culture, museum exhibitions, musical and theatrical events as well as catering.
In the midst of the Covid emergency, OGRs have become a temporary hospital, entirely intended for Coronavirus patients, to lighten the load from traditional hospitals.
Thanks to the intense work of the Cuban Brigade in synergy with the medical and health staff made available by the Local Health Authority of Turin, in the timeframe of three months more than one hundred and seventy patients were released: over the weeks the Piedmontese hospitals have resumed a more normal rhythm also thanks to their intervention.
Overall, 38 Cuban health workers (20 doctors, 16 paramedics, 2 administrators) were involved. Among the Italians, a director, three deputies and a dozen trainees, about forty social and health workers, physiotherapists and nurses. They were helped by about thirty volunteer translators. The work was organized on three daily shifts from 7am to 3 pm (in which the most experienced doctors were involved); from 3pm to 11pm; from 11pm to 7am the following morning.
The mission in Italy lasted more than three months. In the first month and a half the workload was enormous, the Brigade worked tirelessly in the crowded temporary hospital. Subjected to grueling shifts, in full lock-down, the doctors and nurses of the "Henry Reeve" were divided between the red and yellow areas of the OGR and the nearby accommodation, where they rested. After two pumping weeks, they realized they needed one day off a week. The daily meeting, especially at the beginning with so many patients in the hospital, lasted a long time, at least two hours because each individual case and patient was analyzed carefully.
One month after their arrival in Italy and for the rest of their stay, the photojournalist Diana Bagnoli, assisted by the journalist Federico Floris, was able to follow the Brigade work daily and in all its phases, from the red zone intended for the care of patients to the yellow area dedicated to staff meetings and the Italian language classes, specially organized for Cuban doctors.
At the end of the mission, in July, the manager in charge of the Brigade, Dr. Julio Guerra Izquierdo (pic. 9, 249), was appointed honorary citizen by the mayor of Turin, Chiara Appendino. To celebrate and celebrate the work done at OGR, a party was held at the Dora Park, inside which a mural dedicated to the Brigade (pic.2) was painted.
The humanitarian intervention was not limited to Turin and Italy (a team of the Brigade intervened at the Crema hospital from 22 March): with the outbreak of the epidemic at the beginning of 2020, Cuba involved 2,900 doctors intervening in 22 countries, without any distinction between first, second and third world (the Brigade has been active since 2005, according to the wishes of Fidel Castro and the first intervention was in the United States after Hurricane Katrina).
The purpose of these medical brigades is purely humanitarian and continuous over the years: the average salary of a Cuban doctor fluctuates between 150 and 170 euros a month. At the end of September the Henry Reeve Brigade was appointed to the Nobel Peace Prize.
Diana Bagnoli, through her shots and the daily relationship established with the Cuban medical team, gave testimony of the incredible work done in Turin, where a medicine, "poor" of tools, perfectly matched with the cold hyper-specialized technology of our healthcare system, thanks to a holistic and highly humanizing approach (pic. 162).
The Turin experience can thus become a way to learn about the personal stories of the professionals who are part of the Brigade, who, coming from a country with a clear socioeconomic and cultural connotation like Cuba, base their existence on assistance to peoples in difficulty due to epidemics and natural disasters.