Monday, July 28, 2008

Calgon, take me away!

This morning I had another lovely run-in with the public healthcare system... It's so frustrating it exhausts me, for real. 

I've been trying to see my general practitioner for a week. Come summertime, he always mysteriously changes his office hours and unless you actually go to the office, manage to get buzzed into the building by someone else (because he's hardly ever there), and read the signs posted on the office door- you have no way of knowing what the new hours are. I finally managed to get there at the right time and on the right day, only to discover my doctor was... ON vacation. 
Fortunately there was a substitute doctor, but unfortunately this guy is a quack. I've had the misfortune of dealing with him before and he's incompetent. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so because when the 15 people sitting in the waiting room with me (I was third in line, hooray!) found out he was on duty, there was plenty of grumbling.
I show the quack doctor this skin condition that I've had on my fingertips for over a month now. He's flippant and dismissive as always, and says it's nothing. I insist that I'd like to see a dermatologist because my fingertips are bothering me. He says that if I go to Regina Margherita's Guardia Medica, they'll see me without a referral right then and there. Now, I've been around long enough to know that you should always be prepared for the worst when dealing with the public healthcare system, so I politely insist he write out a referral for a dermatological visit, just in case. He does. I leave.
I go to the Guardia Medica at Regina Margherita (like he told me to) and the woman at the desk asks for my referral (See??). She tells me I must first go around the block to the CUP office to pay for the visit, and then come back and go to the dermatology ward on the first floor. I go to the CUP and get a number and wait in line. I wait 15 minutes for my turn, show the lady my referral (without a referral I would've been screwed again) and try to pay for it. She snaps at me and says I need to go back around the block, go up to dermatology and ask if they can see me today. I explain to her that the woman at Guardia Medica said I could just come here and pay. She keeps yelling at me. I refuse to stoop to her level and calmly try to reason with her. Hold on, can't I just pay in the meantime? I'll either been seen today or tomorrow, what's the difference? No such thing and she continues to mutter shit under her breath.

Breathe in breathe out, go back around the block and up to the first floor of the dermatology ward. A lovely nurse assists me and tells me to go back to the CUP and pay for the visit ("If she gives you trouble, tell her Sergio said it's okay"), then come back up and wait my turn. 
Okay, I go back around the block to the CUP, get a fucking number and wait 20 minutes. Pay for the visit (20 euros. Public health care is NOT free) and go back to the dermatology ward. I wait for about 40 minutes for the visit- which was fine by me since they took me at the last minute anyway. And surprisingly enough there was AC in the waiting room.

My turn, the dermatologist barely looks at my hands or listens to me, she's too busy yapping it up with her friend about what she'll be cooking for dinner. She writes out a prescription before I even finish explaining the situation with my fingertips. I politely yet firmly grab her attention and explain my case. She nods her head and slips me the prescription she had already written out and signed and says "It's just some dry skin. You must've touched something that irritated it." No, no, no- I just explained to you that nothing in my routine has changed and my fingertips have been all wrinkled, dry, and painful for almost two months. It's useless, she sends me away with the damn prescription.
I try to stay positive and go to the pharmacy to get said medication. What do I discover? The "medicine" she prescribed is not medicine at all. It costs 23 euro and is nothing but fancy hand cream (which contains the same exact ingredients as the hand cream I regularly use). Fuck it. I decide not to buy it and at this point, I'm going to make an appointment with a private dermatologist and see if I can sort this out. 
Now, I just wasted 3 hours and 20 euros for nothing. And to top it all off, I'm going to have to fork out my own money for a private doctor because the public system sucks.


Kataroma said...

My sympathies. Regina Margherita is the hospital where I had the specialist doctor not turn up when i'd already made an appointment throgh CUP. :(

The public system in Rome doesn't work and it's not 'free'. I love hearing stories about how great public health is in some of the northern areas of Italy but here in Rome it can really suck.

BTW- I do have a really excellent public GP in the centre of Rome who actually takes appointments. If you'd like her name etc just let me know.

Romerican said...

kataroma, that place is a black hole.
I'd LOVE the name of your GP! I've changed doctors three times already, at this point anyone would be better than my guy.

Anonymous said...

I have the exact same problem with my fingertips! Weird huh? I've been having the same difficulty with my doc who says that I'm just dehydrated and to drink more water!!
I hope you have some success.

Romerican said...

Ms. Violetta- NO freaking way! Really?? Well, I just spoke to another dermatologist (semi-private clinic) and based on my description, she's pretty sure it's dyshidrosis... I'm going to see her on friday so if I get any tips I will let you know!

michelle of bleeding espresso said...

Soooo frustrating! Hopefully you'll be diagnosed correctly and on your way to healthy fingertips soon. Glad that Kataroma has pointed you to a good GP!

Romerican said...

Thanks Michelle! Sometimes just dealing with "the system" exhausts me but I'm sure I'll be fine when I see a real doctor on Friday.
Yeah Kataroma's GP tip off will be definitely helpful but unfortunately it's only a fraction of the battle since I don't use the GP much besides for prescriptions and referrals... it's the rest of the structures (clinics, blood labs, etc) that really suck the life outta me!

Romerican said...

Ms. Violetta- I'm hoping you check back here for the fingertip update. The dermatologist said it is indeed dyshidrosis (very mild case) and prescribed a cortisone cream for 10 days and suggested I soak my hands in aluminum acetate (also known as Burow's solution) a couple of times a day for 10 days also.