Forgotten patients – I pazienti dimenticati

Country/area: Italy

Organisation: No publishing organizations were involved

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 24/06/2021

Credit: Riccardo Saporiti


I have been a freelance journalist for the last 20 years, I first approached datajournalism back in 2014. I’m a contributor at Il Sole24Ore and Wired Italy.

In 2017 I published Vaccini d’Italia, the first Foia based investigation in Italy addressing childhood vaccinal coverage. They were so low the governement had to made them mandatory.

Project description:

The first wave of the pandemic hit Italy the hardest.

The government suspended all non-urgent health care. I collected data from hundreds of hospital and local NHS agencies to measure the impact of this decision. The country performed one third of the scheduled surgeries and only 10 per cent of breast and colon cancer screenings.

I also collected data on infected NHS personnel and ICU admissions at hospital level (best we have from the government is at regional level).

Data show no correlation between the pandemic impact and healthcare referral.

Impact reached:

This project is a one of a kind in Italy. It was funded by novelist Paolo Giordano, through a scolarship at Sissa in Trieste, Italy.

It provides, so far, the most detailed database on the pandemics impact on healthcare, healthcare personnel infections and ICU admissions.

Techniques/technologies used:

I filed 200 Foia request.

I used tabula to extract data from pdfs

I built my dataset with Google sheets

I used Tableau Public to visualize them

I ued GitHub to let data available to everyone

What was the hardest part of this project?

Italy’ public administration is not renowned for its efficiency and digital skills. I had to file 200 Foia requests, receiving data in different formats. The pandemic and the vaccinal campaign didn’t help in making local NHS more cooperative.

It took me eight months (and quite a lot of patience 🙂 ) to collect the data.

What can others learn from this project?

Using Foia to collect information from the public sector is not a common practice in Italian newsrooms. The same can be said for a data driven approach to reporting news.

I think fellow Italian journalist can learn a work method.

Project links: