A Day at the Hospital

The alarm went off at 5 AM, not my idea of a great start to a day after a restless night and it’s December, the sun doesn’t rise until around 7AM!

The reason? We had a date at the hospital for a minor surgery for Hans.

We were supposed to be there at 7.

Overnight our weather had turned from the never-ending September to real December, cold and wet. Driving along the hilly roads to Fermo, watching the sunrise over the sea with the higher hills covered in a dusting of snow reminded me that even when it is cold and wet, I think this is such a beautiful corner of the earth.

We arrived, Italian punctual at 7:15. There was no one to check us in, tell us what to do, where to wait, how long we might be waiting and so forth. When I first moved here 5 years ago I was perturbed by the seemingly nonchalant attitude of the workers in hospitals and clinics. So different from the hospitals in Madison that look like 4 star hotels with every amenity, check in desks and waiting rooms with chairs.

Now I’ve come to understand that it’s not a nonchalant attitude, it’s just very busy, understaffed caring people who are doing their job, and here in Italy, it seems most people have perfected the art of waiting.

In fact when you have a doctor appointment say at 14:00 what that means is everyone that day was told to come at 14:00 and please wait until you are called.

I now always have a few magazines and a book of short stories just waiting in the car for days when I need to wait.

Today we waited 5 hours before a bed was vacated and could be changed and given to Hans. Once he had a bed, the wait was much shorter, soon a nurse came to wheel him away to the surgeon, shouting down the hall to a colleague to come help as Hans is a big guy and weighed too much for her to wheel by herself. Perhaps not the nicest manners, but quite efficient.

I waited in Han’s room (in which there were 2 other men recovering from far more serious surgeries) and watched as nurses regularly came in to check them, and 3 different doctors did the same, all in about an hours time.

A female relative came in to relieve a male relative of one of them. Round the clock a family member is there, as well as attentive nurses and doctors. Even the women who’s job it is to keep the hospital polished and disinfected take an interest in the patients’ well being, running to get a nurse if someone needs help say turning over.

The room was warm and Spartan. (The waiting area was cold and Spartan) It’s an old hospital, and looks it, from the leaky windows to the worn polished clean floors and the falling apart bedside tables and lockers where patients put their belongings. Such a contrast from the hospitals in Madison!

That said, let me remind people that the health care system here is available to all. We paid zero for this surgery, the pre and follow up exams and care. Should Hans have needed any prescriptions, they would not cost us a dime (or euro)

We (as do all people working legally in Italy) do pay high taxes, of which much of it goes into the health care system.

I have lots and lots to say about my experiences here with the health system (all good so far) and my sadness to think that my own country, one of the wealthiest and most powerful in the world still does not consider health care a right of a citizen.

Italy on the other hand is struggling with the high costs of health care, but the people strongly believe that health care is a basic human right and I couldn’t agree more.

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