Health and Research. Our most important battles

28 of April 2017

Although the Italian healthcare system is still highly rated at an international level, it has suffered from a lack of investment for years.  The State policies that govern fiscal discipline in compliance with the European criteria have led welfare, starting from healthcare, to be considered nothing more than a cost that burdens public budgets.This has had inevitable consequences, such as constant cuts, obsolescence of structures and technologies, hospitals that are unable to keep abreast of the times and meet the citizens’ demand for healthcare.

Non-profit organisations, such as Fondazione Roma, take the opposite direction as recommended by the Chairman, who considers healthcare so necessary as to make it the top priority in the institutional activities.  Indeed most of the Foundation’s resources are allocated to healthcare and scientific research by promoting a series of projects that aim to meet citizens’ social and healthcare needs and focusing on the prospects offered by new technologies.

The Foundation supports local public and private non-profit healthcare facilities.  Having disbursed twenty million euro in recent years, the Foundation has placed more substantial grants at the disposal of hospitals for bedside technology and cutting edge diagnostic and clinical equipment.

The Tor Vergata Polyclinic used these grants to purchase latest generation equipment (128 layer CT and a Gamma Camera Spect) for the Diagnostic Imaging Department, opened on the 27th of April 2017, which will enable it to increase the quality and quantity of cardiac diagnostic imaging services.  The Foundation contributed € 658.800,00 out of a total of € 732.000,00.

The Foundation will also disburse a further € 482.000,00 towards and estimated total cost of € 537.000 for an ongoing bedside technology project, that should be completed soon.  The projects aims to install video terminals in 75 rooms to provide patients with services such as internet, television and video calls and electronic health records, medication prescriptions, clinical analyses requests, consult images and X-ray reports to medical staff.

Naturally, substantial grants have been or are about to be issued towards other health facilities projects, such as:

  • The new cardiac intensive care unit in the Gemelli Polyclinic, which was opened on the 9th May 2017;
  • The da Vinci robotic surgery system upgrade in the San Giovanni Addorata hospital;
  • An advanced vital signs monitoring system and real time detection of dropping (via bed an/or char sensors), in Fondazione Santa Lucia,
  • Highly sophisticated robotic systems in MARLab (Movement analysis and Robotics Laboratory) of the Bambino Gesù Childrens Hospital, which now offers state-of the art rehabilitation treatment for children with congenital and acquired neurological and skeletal muscle disorders.

The first project to mention is certainly the Palliative Care Centre, opened by the Foundation’s Chairman in the late nineteen nineties, currently managed by Fondazione Sanità e Ricerca, which provides three healthcare services:

  • a Hospice where a multidisciplinary team provides specialised palliative care to thirty terminal inpatients and 120 patients directly in their homes.
  • the ward for three Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis patients, who may be admitted periodically in order to benefit from pain relief and receive care at the end of their life and six patients directly in their home.
  • the Alzheimer’s Day Centre that provides care to patient’s with mild to moderate dementia, who are divided into groups of 12 and attend the centre every other day. Home Care services are provided to sixty patients in a more advanced stage of dementia.  The centre provides counselling and information to the families of Alzheimer’s patients on the Day Centre and Home Care waiting list.
  • From the 19th of October 1998 (when the first patient was admitted) to the end of 2016 the facility has provided care free of charge to over 14.00 patients.

Moreover, the Foundation is committed to meeting the needs of the rising number of people with dementia.  In order to find an innovative solution to this health and social crisis, the Foundation performed research, as requested by the Chairman, which led to De Hodgeweyk in Weesp, near Amsterdam, the Netherlands.  The village was opened several years ago and the residents are cared for in a familiar, peaceful and comfortable environment, similar to their own homes.  This facility is a valid and innovative alternative to traditional residential nursing homes, where residents live an almost normal life during the course of the disease.

Having encountered numerous bureaucratic obstacles that seriously delayed the project’s inception, the Foundation is at long last building its own Alzheimer’s village in the Bufalotta neighbourhood in Rome.  When completed, the village will have thirteen houses with gardens, each of which will have six private bedrooms and a common room.  The village will have numerous amenities and the residents may choose their daily activities on the basis of their interests whilst respecting each other’s rights and dignity.  A Day Centre will be opened in two more houses, in order to improve the relationship with the community.  Residents will be admitted to the houses or the Day Centre free of charge.

The Foundation also supported CONI the Italian National Olympic Committee, that is the Foundation’s grant to install Nuclear Magnetic Resonance equipment in the Istituto di Medicina dello Sport, which may be used both by the athletes and the public for diagnostic imaging at a lower cost than those applied in private healthcare facilities.

The Foundation’s commitment to Biomedical Research is likewise considerable. The Foundation selects the research projects to be supported by launching Calls for Proposals.  The last two Calls for Proposals concerned research projects on chronic-degenerative ageing associated non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP).  The 23 projects, selected subsequent to peer reviewed evaluations, are currently ongoing, 5 of which on RP and 18 on NCDs. Several projects have already had positive results, documented in international scientific journals, and occasionally reported in the press, as in the case of the article headlined  “Obesity and atherosclerosis a substance for two problems discovered” published in Corriere della Sera on the 20th of February 2017 concerning research performed by investigators in the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and the Tor Vergata University.

Other notable projects supported by the Foundation in the field of Scientific Research:

  • The Medical and Experimental Bioimaging Centre established by the Università degli Studi di Roma Tor Vergata and the Università Telematica San Raffaele, in Rome, which used the Foundation’s contribution to equip their labs with cutting edge instruments such as a microscope slide scanner, a transmission electron microscope and a confocal microscope that magnifies tissues and cells millions of times and enables investigators to study the interaction between molecules and produce high quality images. The opening ceremony of the laboratories, held on the 10th of June 2016, was attended by prominent exponents of the healthcare and the research sectors and Professor Ferid Murad who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1998 for discoveries concerning nitric oxide as a signalling molecule in the cardiovascular system, proving the project’s value and international reach;
  • Fondazione G. B. Bietti per lo Studio e la Ricerca in Oftalmologia Onlus, which mainly fosters research and clinical trials in the field of ophthalmology. Over the years Fondazione G. B. Bietti has increased its research on widespread diseases that could lead to a permanent visual impairment such as disorders that affect the retina, ocular surface and cornea, glaucoma and eye cancers.
  • The ongoing TEEP-ALS research project (Empathic and Expressive Technologies for ALS Patients), performed by the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology), and supported by Fondazione Roma, This project aims to create advanced assistive technologies for ALS patients, in order to meet their social interaction and communication needs through innovative interfaces. The technologies recognize the user’s state of mind, according to psychophysiological constructs, adapting them both to the detection of user’s commands and the feedback they receive, thus easing and personalising their interactive process.