Every day doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists, social-health workers and the many operators of the cooperative Auxilium enter the homes of thousands of elderly, sick and disabled people, to take care of them and support their families. There is no city, town, village or isolated farm in the Basilicata Region and the Apulian province of Barletta-Andria-Trani where patients, who sometimes need complex treatments, are not reached and assisted by Auxilium operators.

Auxilium is a social cooperative that provides a wide range of services aimed at improving its clients’ quality of life, such as nursing homes, residential care facilities, accommodation for the disabled, foster homes and day-care facilities for the physically and mentally disabled, shelters for minors and refugees. The cooperative works to meet people’s needs in terms of social care and healthcare by offering an integrated set of activities that cover various aspects of person-focused care. Most of its workers are members of the cooperative, counting 1300 worker-members and 300 non-member
employees. Members meet once a year in occasion of the General Assembly to elect the governing body (board of directors) and approve the budget, but also to exchange on the experiences matured during the year, to be updated on the new employees’ benefits initiatives, and deepen their knowledge of cooperative values.

In collaboration with the Italian National Health System, Auxilium ensures that its patients receive long-term care and healthcare services in their home. This is a valid alternative to hospitalisation and caters to the needs of patients suffering from the multiple, chronic effects of their disease.

Integrated Home care: a service by the people, for the people

Angelo Chiorazzo, founder of Auxilium and Board member of CECOP for the Italian cooperative organization AGCI Solidarietà, explains: «Auxilium was born twenty years ago on the initiative of a group of university students from Basilicata. It began with the provision of home care services by qualified healthcare professionals, as a way to express the founding values of cooperation, such as working together for the social development of the community. Integrated Home Care (IHC), in fact, not only improves the patient’s health, but create inclusion, well-being and sociability, the ingredients of a cooperative’ mission».

Home care implies taking care of the fragile people in their home, within their world of emotional relationships. IHC services, which exist in Italy as well as in other European countries, are carried out in very different ways, but share a common denominator: they provide an answer to the progressive population ageing, as well as the increase in chronic and oncological diseases, and they guarantee continuity of care in a protected environment for patients discharged from hospitals and patients in need of end-of-life care, avoiding the clogging up emergency rooms and hospital wards. This is a timely answer, especially in a country under demographic pressure like Italy, the oldest country in the world along with Japan.

The Venosa model and the Basilicata region: a successful model

Integrated Home Services provided in the small southern region of Basilicata, with percentages of the elderly among the highest in Italy (over 20 per cent of the resident population is over 65), is an excellent example of the strategic role that home care will play in the near future for the entire Italian national health system. Because "what is important today, it is not to extend life but to improve its quality", as stated by Professor Leocadio Rodriguez-Manas, Head of the Department of Geriatrics at the University Hospital of Getafe (Madrid) and eminent expert of fragility linked to aging, in a conference on long term care organised by Auxilium in Matera.

In the Basilicata region, Auxilium manages the entire IHC under the clinical governance of the local health authorities, assisting 9,000 patients every day. In this region, from where many young people emigrate due to lack of quality jobs, one of the most advanced model of home care in Europe was developed, thanks to a successful partnership between public and private sector: the Venosa model, named after the home town of the poet Horace.

Dr. Gianvito Corona, director of the Complex Unit of Critical Territorial Oncology and Palliative CareHCS,at the regional Personal Care Services Agency ), explains the reasons for this success: “A lot of energy has been used to guarantee adequate training for all operators, so that every citizen, from the capital to the smallest village in the mountains, could have the same rights and the same benefits. For years, it has been said that it was right to remove care from hospitals to take them to the patient’s home, but adequate resources were not invested and no one was brave enough to bring technology home. We have done it and with excellent results”.

According to Francesco Montingelli, responsible for the provision of IHC services in Auxilium: “Statistics show that in Italy only 3% of the elderly over 65 take advantage of IHC. At a national level, the percentage is still too low, but in Basilicata we attained 6%, and according to a detailed investigation by the regional Personal Care Services Agency (ASP) patients in the Basilicata province of Potenza expressed very high satisfaction rates about the home care provided, between 90 and 98 percent”.

Those results find supports in the families themselves who always have a thankful message for the help received. Dozens of letters, emails, faxes, sent to those operators who ‘have become family members’, as for Antonio who writes "after my mother’s resignation from the hospital, I had a sense of resignation, of helplessness, of not being able to do anything for her anymore. Then, through friends whose family members already benefited of your assistance, I came to know Auxilium and I found hope again, it was a second family”.

Auxilium is affiliated to AGCI Solidarietà, the national sectoral body of the General Association of Italian Cooperatives (AGCI) promoting social cooperatives. AGCI Solidarietà is member of CECOP since 2004.