In Praise of the Italian Healthcare System

18 Nov

Yes, I know it might seem strange to see. And I, like many, do have some genuine horror stories as well, of run-ins with the public healthcare system here. But I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so here’s to the SSN who gave me a hand today.

So, you know I’m clumsy, no need to humiliate myself further by elaborating. But today folks, I really hit the jackpot.

I was at Ale’s family’s little house in Arcinazzo (near Subiaco), cutting bread for lunch. You know when only that tiny end piece is left? And you know how hard the crust is on Italian bread? And you know how sharp and scary those big serrated bread knives are?

Need I go on?

Well, one quick trip to the emergency room in Subiaco and three stitches later, you’ll have to forgive me if my posts for the next week have a few spelling errors…

Needless to say, my husband the household chef has banned me from from using knives in the kitchen for the foreseeable future.

But let me tell you… I arrived, they took me immediately with absolutely no wait, and within about 20 minutes I was already out of there, a print out of my diagnosis and care instructions in hand and waving goodbye with my fashionable new look. Two nurses and a doctor took care of me, all of them kind, caring and friendly. And best of all, not a scrap of paperwork to fill out, no insurance headaches, and absolutely 100% free of charge. As much as I can sometimes complain about the inefficiency of things here in Rome, I have to say that this is one area where I hope the US eventually gets its act together… having a national healthcare plan is a real convenience when it works.

Sigh. Typing with one hand is NOT fun though. I promise I’ll be more careful in the future.


21 Responses to “In Praise of the Italian Healthcare System”

  1. Maryann November 19, 2007 at 12:26 am #

    ooo..I’m so sorry you got hurt. I’m clumsy also, don’t worry about it πŸ™‚ Your experience in the emergency room is like a wonderful dream to me. My bloke cut a portion of his finger off and they had him go back to the waiting room with no pain meds and we waited 2 hours. He was in so much pain. It really angered me, but this is typical here. It’s terrible. Oh yeah, then you have to pay an astronomical amount for their “service”. Don’t get me started haha.

  2. Elizabeth November 19, 2007 at 1:01 am #

    So sorry…I’ve done that too, but only one stitch.
    I’ve done lots of ER runs with my son, some longer, some shorter waits, but in the end, we have always been fixed up and sent home (with casts or splinters or wraps or……). How about lunch? My treat. Looks like your left hand anyway.

  3. Anna L'americana November 19, 2007 at 2:37 am #

    Sorry, but I have to think that it was soooo quick and friendly because you were in Subiaco (small town). If you were in Rome, say at the CTO or Monte Verde, I think it might have been very different. My experiences in Rome with medical care were more on the darker side BUT: NO FORMS, NO $, NO BILLS. EVER. Of course right after my first ER visit I got a called into the questura and suddenly as a condition of keeping my permesso di soggiorno I had to get a letter from MY FATHER (I was a grown woman!!! – only in Italy, and maybe Iraq!!!) guaranteeing payment for any future medical bills. So, I jumped through a million hoops – because the letter had to be “official” – try explaining that there is no carta bollata in the US – and translated through the Italian embassy in Washington (my folks were in L.A.) and authenticated through the US embassy in Rome, etc. etc. etc. – a complete nightmare – after which, I STILL never had to pay a dime for care…….AHH, la burocrazia! Keep the hand elevated (famous Italian cure for anything) and feel better!

  4. rohanknitter November 19, 2007 at 4:52 am #

    Oooh, ouch! Hope it heals up quickly!

  5. jessica in rome November 19, 2007 at 5:39 am #

    Poor Shelley!!! How awful! I am glad they took care of you right away. You need some nifty cartoon drawings to liven your bandage up!

  6. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy November 19, 2007 at 7:02 am #

    Are you kidding??? Another ESP moment…Yesterday, I sliced open my middle finger pretty badly cutting parmigiano. I didn’t have to go to the hospital but I was definitely bleeding badly (my 7″ Santoku knife is unforgiving!)

  7. Michelle November 19, 2007 at 10:26 am #

    Oh, I hate that hard little crusty end of the bread. All of my knives are pretty dull, and I like it that way! Feel better!

  8. Robert November 19, 2007 at 10:51 am #

    Ah, we are partners in clumsiness then! How much of your finger did you manage to slice off?

    Glad the healthcare system works when needed in Italy. There are not many places in Europe where it does…

  9. Shelley, At Home in Rome November 19, 2007 at 12:43 pm #

    Thanks for the well-wishes!

    Like I said, this is one time where merit is due. I won’t go into my bad stories. When I worked with US university students I spent lots of time in different hospital emergency rooms here in Rome (and yes, Anna, I agree that Subiaco had a shorter wait b/c it’s not a city). I have to say that generally the care has been excellent, and when there was a true life or death situation (which unfortunately did happen once), they didn’t make us wait, like you sometimes hear people say. That was at S. Spirito. Fatebenefratelli on the island is good as well but you do wait if it’s not urgent. Anyways, I still feel comforted knowing that care is covered even if there’s a wait involved. My finger wouldn’t stop bleeding so I would have just made a mess on purpose if they had kept me waiting (insert evil laugh).

    Maryann: Where was that?

    Elizabeth: I’ll get in touch!

    Anna: Seems strange about the questura visit. I highly doubt that would happen now. There’s no way they’d make extra work for themselves.

    Sara: That sucks! But I’m glad it wasn’t bad enough to need stitches.

    Michelle: I will never touch that tiny end piece again, for me it’s an accident waiting to happen.

    Robert, luckily I didn’t slice “off” anything but cut on the side a bit too deep for a regular Band Aid. I knew it right away, and being clumsy by nature I generally remain pretty calm. I covered it and put pressure and said to Ale, “I cut my finger pretty bad. I think I’m going to need stitches.” Ha! Turned out I was right.

  10. Cinzia November 19, 2007 at 3:46 pm #

    Shelley, guarisci presto. I’m the queen of clumsiness, so I know what it means. Keep your blog going.

  11. Francesca November 19, 2007 at 4:49 pm #

    I have done that too – hope you feel better soon!
    I had a friend who found great healthcare in Cervinia after getting major whip-lash skiing in the Alps over Thanksgiving while we were students there. She ended up with a charming neon green neck brace!

  12. finnyknits November 19, 2007 at 8:30 pm #

    Oh noooooooooooo!Your poor finger!

    Although I’m glad to hear that you got all the attention you deserved. πŸ™‚

  13. cheeky November 19, 2007 at 9:47 pm #

    Ouch! Hope you are all healed soon.
    With pros and cons to both systems, I agree with you that not having the hassle of insurance and paperwork, worrying if you are covered, in-network, out-of-network, need I go on?….socialised medicine is good. I have been fortunate to have all positive experiences in Australia. Socialised healthcare brings about a piece of mind.
    So glad you were treated well.

  14. Delina November 20, 2007 at 12:04 am #

    Oh poor you. I have a feeling I’ll think of this post for a while to come as I always take a risk at cutting that final piece of crust.

  15. nyc/caribbean ragazza November 20, 2007 at 6:54 am #

    Ouch! I’m glad you well taken care of.

    I sliced open my palm two years ago after falling on broken glass and did not go to the Emergency room because I couldn’t deal with the drama or the expense. I have to pay for my own insurance and with a $2500 deductable all dr. visits come out of my pocket. I am thankful that I can afford to pay for my insurance. Many self-employed people in the U.S. cannot afford the montly fees.

  16. Isabelle November 20, 2007 at 11:53 am #

    OUch, poor Shelley ! Take care and good luck with the knitting πŸ˜‰

  17. sognatrice November 20, 2007 at 2:41 pm #

    So sorry to read this! P doesn’t allow me near the bread at all, and for good reason.

  18. eva November 20, 2007 at 3:48 pm #

    Yes, I agree they do provide great emergency healthcare BUT let’s not forget that a “good” healthcare system should also mainly work for preventive and regular health care. That’s the REAL problem in Italy.

  19. Kelli November 20, 2007 at 7:38 pm #

    AH! Shell! I am so sorry to see this. Thank goodness for good health care though. Jeez.

  20. Cobalt November 20, 2007 at 10:13 pm #

    Sorry to hear it, Shelley! Hope it gets better soon. I must say here in Siena the hospital is a little old-looking but I went to a doctor here who is private and public and she is very thorough and found out what problem I had in no time flat. I think it would have taken a lot longer in the US because I would have had to have tests approved, etc., whereas here she did them right away. Even having blood taken – my most hated thing in the whole world, a true phobia – was not that bad, in that everyone was very professional, I didn’t wait to long, etc. Lack of juice or anything to eat in a blood taking section of the hospital was a little odd, but hey, I just went to the caffe down the street…

  21. Married a Furlan August 12, 2009 at 8:50 am #

    I have to disagree with Eva about preventive care in Italy. When I lived there (for multiple years), I definitely took advantage and made use of the healthcare system (did all the analysis I was denied in the States due to “pre-existing” conditions, etc), so I got to know the system pretty well. Anyway, during my time out there, there were many preventive care campaigns being offered by the government- namely, mamogram and pap smear tests- and all were free of charge. I’m wondering if this was because the region is in the northeast (Friuli), and I hear there’s better coverage in the north/ central regions in comparison to the south? Anyway, as another blogger here has said, it’s a true “peace of mind” knowing that if something happens to you, or if you get sick, you can go to the doctor and not fear that you’ll be turned away, and even if you have to wait to be seen, you WILL eventually be seen, and you won’t go broke doing it! Trust me, no matter how imperfect the Italian healthcare system is, it’s by far superior to the American one. Here, even with insurance, I can’t afford to see a doctor because I’m still trying to finish paying off for previous services!! There is something fundamentally wrong with this. Furthermore, I always tell people who point out the advanced technology that we have in the States, “What good does that do when not everyone has access to it?”

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