NEWS » Whatever happened to... The Italian Hospital

Whatever happened to... The Italian Hospital


The Italian medical charity

The Italian Hospital Fund (currently named Italian Medical Charity) since its formation in the 90’s has made grants to over 2000 separate cases to those needing financial help dealing with their medical problems.

The fund was set up after the Italian hospital, founded in 1884 by Giovanni Ortelli, a generous successful businessman, was sold, because it was no longer financially viable, in 1990 to Great Ormond Street Hospital.

All the trustees are volunteers and they all have Italian origins.

Backhillonline met Anna Giacon and Peter Capella, two of the trustees of the Italian Medical Charity.

What is the purpose of the charity and how is it financed?

Peter Capella observes that - “The charity does not provide medical services, it only provides financial support for physical or psychological problems, medical, surgical or rehabilitative treatment.”

Anna Giacon adds- “The fund started from the proceeds of the sale of the old Italian Hospital and which are now invested and managed by the Trustees. At the beginning the fund was under 1million pounds but has increased with the returns on investments less donations made since . Our budget is determined by the amount of dividends from the investments. Occasionally we have been given donations. For example when “The Italian Benevolent Society” closed they donated their funds to the charity. Also other people left us some money in their will. We don’t fundraise mainly because we don’t really need it. The Italian hospital used to hold a well supported fund raising ball every year and it was a massive amount of work. It was a year’s work. Now we don’t organize any fund raising event because we still have money in the fund”.

Can you tell me something more about the Italian hospital and the reasons why it was sold?

“The hospital was established to help all the Italians who couldn’t speak English and couldn’t afford private medications. The original building was sold in 1990 because, not being under the NHS umbrella, there were financial problems and debts.

The money left from the balance of the debts was about 1milion pounds which went into the charity fund as already decided by Gianni Ortelli, in case the hospital would have been sold”.

Who can apply for funds and how?

“People applying first of all need to have some Italian origins or at least some Italian connections. We also had applications from Italians who had just arrived in the UK to live.

Each case is reviewed independently but there are quite strict criteria. They have to apply before treatments start and not after and they have to provide a GP’s letter and possibly a specialist consultant’s or a social worker’s statement”.

Can you give me some examples of the requests you receive?

“Each case is different. We have a few children with autism, people who take care of someone and need an extra help for a few weeks or people with long term difficulties who apply every year after sending a report of what had happened during the year.

We supported a lady who had had a hip operation and was in need of convalescence.

In some circumstances, we have been able to help someone to buy new spectacles, or other items to assist the care of a sick person. We can help with travel fares, if their cost is related to the care of a person in need. We also supported, together with 3 other charities, the adaptation of the kitchen and the bathroom for two disabled people. Unfortunately we can’t give a lot of money because we don’t have it; we only use the interests from the investments. If there is an exceptional circumstance we can use some of the capital.

Sometimes we help drug addicts in their recovery but we never give money directly to them and check their state of health every week through the social services.

Sometimes the Consulate forward emergency requests for people in need.

Sometimes we have to refuse the request if we have doubts on the material provided. We had a fraudulent application; a lady sent a replica of a GP’s letter re-dated trying to make a claim with a letter of 10 years ago”.

Do you remember any particular episode when you’ve been especially happy to help?

“We provided funds for a hoist and wheel chair to a young man and he was so happy and so grateful. We were very happy that this was going to make such a difference to his life.

All requests are decided by The Grants Sub-Committee. We try to deal with things quite quickly. The longest we kept someone waiting was a month.

How many requests do you have every year?

We have between 70 and 100 requests every year. Recently, with the help of the Consulate, we’ve done a massive publicity campaign sending thousands of letters as the charity is not very well known in the community. We have more requests coming from outside London now, from Bedford, Woking and Wales”.

How do the trustees work? Do you have regular meetings?

“We have two meetings a year of the full board, in March and October to discuss our current financial situation, the budget and the direction of the charity. The Grants Sub-Committee discuss the requests when they are received throughout the year.

We usually have between 80 to 100 thousand pounds a year to spend.

Part of our funds goes as a contribution to the residents of Villa Scalabrini.

What is the future of the charity?

“The first generation has almost disappeared, the second is ageing and the Italians coming to the UK now are European citizens so they can access to all the services provided by the NHS.

The Italian community is changing. Little Italy no longer exists. Consequently we sometimes discuss the future of the charity also because we need to generate new trustees for the future”.

All the information on criteria and how to apply for a grant can be found on the website which is in both English and Italian.

Giulia Lombardo

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