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Italian Oncologist Treats Coronavirus Patients at Their Homes

Medical staff of a mobile unit take samples from a man to test for COVID-19, at Italy's Santa Maria della Pieta' hospital complex on April 3, 2020.

An Italian oncologist and his team are treating coronavirus patients at their homes, as intensive-care units at hospitals have reached capacity.

The director of the oncology ward at Piacenza Hospital in the Emilia-Romagna region on the border with Italy's hardest-hit Lombardy region, Luigi Cavanna, and head nurse Gabriele Cremona rushed to help patients fight the new COVID-19 during the early phase of the epidemic.

Cavanna has been prescribing antiviral drugs and Hydroxychloroquine to patients with the new coronavirus symptoms.

"This disease can be stopped, and its spread can be stopped, because if we give (patients) an anti-viral drug, which prevents the virus from replicating, not only we can prevent the person from becoming ill, but we can probably also prevent the disease from spreading,” Cavanna said.

Cavana and his team have treated more than 100 patients at home and less than 10 percent of them had to be admitted to the hospital. The other 90 percent responded successfully to home treatment and have been recovering.

“Just seeing us walking in, some of them, even in their suffering were almost moved, because they thought, ‘Someone is coming to see us’. Under our monster-like appearance (referring to protective gear) they could see human features, and the impact is moving. More than one person told us: ‘It will end the way it will end, but you’ve come and for me that’s already great.’ For a doctor, this means the world,” Cavanna said.

The health authority in Emilia Romagna and its regional administration have supported what has become known as the "Piacenza model," and other teams there are practicing it.

Other Italian regions have shown interest in the strategy, which could be especially successful in areas less affected by the coronavirus epidemic.