Monday, October 15, 2007

A day in the life...

Oh the joys of Italian healthcare.
According to Michael Moore's film Sicko, Italy's healthcare system is considered to be the second best in the world. I beg to differ, Mr. Moore. Why, you ask? Well, I'll answer that by describing a day in the life of Italian healthcare:
I need to get a kidney ultrasound. I go to my general practitioner (medico ASL) and wait 1 hour to see him (it's on a first come first serve basis, appointments are impossible to come by), which is actually not bad considering I've waited 2+ hours before and at times have not been able to see him at all. He gives me the "prescription" (ricetta) for said procedure and suggests I do it as soon as possible to make sure all is well. Easier said than done.
Next step. They've set up a toll-free number (CUP) you can call to schedule appointments for specialized visits and services at public clinics in Italy. Cool, huh? You can even do it online, but when I tried this service was out-of-order. I call the toll-free number about 15 times throughout the course of the day, only to hear the same message over and over again "All operators are busy, please call back later", and then they hang up. Holding the line is not an option apparently.
Okay, time for Plan B- I'm lucky enough to have a hospital within walking distance so I stroll over there hoping to be able to make an appointment there or through their network. I walk in, wait in line for 25 minutes (again- very good for Italian standards) and ask them to schedule my kidney ultrasound. The guy scans the computer for what seems like ages and then tells me the first appointment available in ALL OF ROME is in mid-February. Say what?! Come on, if there were something wrong with my kidneys, they'd fall out by then! He tells me to try calling the toll-free number because they might have more options open. Thanks for the tip, buddy!

At this point, my only goal is to get the damn ultrasound, so I call a private clinic in my neighborhood which has relatively low prices. They schedule me for Thursday, THIS Thursday! And the cost is only 9.00 euro more than what the public health clinic charges. So, what do you think I did? Naturally I'll pay the extra 9.00 euro and get an appointment in real time as opposed to waiting around till next year and hoping my kidneys don't rot.
BTW: I called the toll-free number again a few minutes ago, just to double check, and I actually got through! Unfortunately, the first available appointment they could find is also in February.

All in all, a happy ending, right? But why the hell am I paying taxes for a healthcare system I can rarely ever use because it's SO inefficient?!


Michellanea said...

Not sure if you saw the press conference for Sicko when Michael Moore was here but he was KISSING (health minister) Livia Turco's butt, and it was so gross because he really knows nothing about what health care is like here. I think Michael Moore should schedule (or try - ha ha) his gastric bypass in Italy and let's see what he has to say after a nice public hospital stay. I blogged about this, but I tried to schedule a third trimester ultrasound (which needed to be completed in November) with CUP and was given a date in January AFTER I will have already given birth. I have one thing to say: do NOT get pregnant here. If you think it's hard scheduling one exam, try scheduling several every week. Sigh

Michellanea said...

I wanted to add that I was calling in August to schedule the ultrasound and the January date was actually a cancellation that I was told I was "lucky to get." A third trimester ultrasound needs to be completed in the, duh, third trimester. An ultrasound of my abdomen post-birth would do me no good.

J.Doe said...

I'm not a fan of Michael Moore, but when I heard that the Italian Healthcare system was ranked number 2 best in the world I almost had a heart attack. it is obvious he has never been there because had he had to wait months for such shoddy service like they offer he would have ranked it number 2 worst.
Of course many people in the States (and probably rest of the world) follow his ideas like they are gospel and I've had a few co-workers say to me "Don't you wish you were back in Italy in the number 2 best healthcare system??" My response is always "#%(( NO!", or something of that nature.

Kataroma said...

I know - it's completely nuts that Italy is supposedly #2 worldwide for healthcare according to Michael Moore. Maybe in the rich north of Italy but definitely not in Rome or further south. One look at Policlinico in Rome and there's no way anyone could say we have a functioning health care system here - let alone a good one.

Living here and seeing how bad/unprofessional it can be makes me wonder if all Moore's films are just plain wrong on their facts.

I wrote about this recently on my blog but I went for an ASL prescribed check with a specialist at a Rome hospital recently and the doctor didn't even bother showing up. Probably off seeing private patients while also being paid publicly. :( The hospital was also a complete mess, no receptionist, no information sportello - nothing. Bewildered people desperately asking doctors and nurses where to go for the various reparti and getting different directions from everyone. Just a bit of basic organization (like having a reception desk at the entrance) would just make the whole experience so much more human.

BTW - if you want a good ASL general doctor in central Rome (who actually has a very competent receptionist who you can make appointments with- hallelujah!) just ask. As much as I hate going to specialists here my general doctor is great. :)

Brendan said...

I Italy, I had surgery for a problem I didn't have! Well, at least the doctor apologized. I am now in the UK getting proper physical therapy and my problem is 80% resolved.