My medical experience in Italy

Since I’m heading back to Singapore in mid December, I thought that I should take the opportunity to make use of my Singaporean subsidization and have a medical check up like dental. Besides, I’m way behind my recommended two times a year check up.

Hence, yesterday, I made an online appointment for a dental checkup and today, I got a reply that I was scheduled for the 1st December.

I wasn’t too surprised though, since my experience with the Singaporean public health services has always had a long waiting time. A month at the very least.

How it works is like this, you do a walk in to any polyclinic nearest to you. After registration, you go to a consultation room and ask the doctor for a referral if you wanted to visit a specialist. And they’ll make the arrangements and give you a letter and about a month later, you’ll see the specialist.

Its quite a lengthy process. But its not too bad in the end as the fees including the medicine are subsidized, hence it was more affordable as compared to going to a private clinic.

But in anycase, speaking of medical services, I thought that I’d share with you my experience with the medical services here in Rome. Well, granted that it was just a one time experience, so I’m definitely not an expert at this. But despite the horror stories that I’ve heard online, my experience wasn’t all that bad.

Middle of last year, I had an irritant in my left eye. Initially I thought that it was a small grain of dust in my eye. So I beared the irritating feeling. But when the discomfort persisted for days and didn’t go away during the weekend, I got alarmed. Peering in the mirror, I found a white dot near the edge of the iris. Cart started to feel anxious and dragged me to visit a hospital.

I was surprised. Was there a working clinic during the weekend? Practically nothing is open during the weekend in Italy, especially towards the evening onwards. But Cart told me that there are hospitals that are open till late for emergency issues.

it was evening time when we reached the Ospedale Regionale Oftalmico. You take a number queue and sit in the waiting room for about 15 – 30 minutes. After which, you have a person check you and see how severe your ailment is. He also fills in the personal particulars and then gives you a new queue number.

What was interesting is that the queue number is colour coded. Red for the highly serious cases, followed by yellow, then green and then white, which is the least serious and a longer waiting time.

And back to the waiting room we go.

Eventually, about an hour and several cups of coffee and hot chocolate later, we were finally examined by a doctor. He did a diagnostic, examining the eye under a light. And then a swab on my eye for a sample, dropped in an ointment and finally put a bandage and said that I had Corneal Abscess. Finally he gave us a list of medical prescription and asked me to come back for follow up checkup.

By the time we left the hospital, it was already night time, but luckily there were still a few pharmacies which was open. (Pharmacies and clinics are strangely, not in the same building here) Cart went in and bought the prescribed medicines.

About a week later, I was back at the eye hospital, during the day this time, bringing with me the contact lenses that I was using the week that I had the eye irritant. After about an hour of waiting, we saw the doctor and he diagnosed from the swab that it was a germ in my eye, but because it was close to the cornea, it was harder for it to fade away as opposed to dirt going in the white part of the eye.

In any case, I continued with the medication to which, in no time, I found out that I had an eerily fascinating large pupil, just like a cat’s eye at night. The bad side is that I was very photosensitive. Too much light made me feel extremely uncomfortable. But eventually the spot went away.

And some time later, we had the lab results from the doctor. My contact lenses were germ free hence it was still a mystery as to how I had the white dot.

But what is interesting that I’ve noticed is that apart from the medication, we didn’t have to pay at the time. And I’m not even an Italian. Cart tells me that, this is how it was practised in Europe – every person, regardless of their nationality gets a chance to be treated. It would be bad to turn away a non European sick person, who will in turn infect others.

I thought that, that was cool.

5 Replies to “My medical experience in Italy”

  1. Oh.. Maybe that’s why when a friend of mine had to go to a doctor (in a hospital) to remove a fishbone stuck in her throat (this was in Russia), the doctor didn’t charge her anything. You can imagine the scene. Neither understood each other, and my friend took out her money, then the doctor shook his head vigorously. Haha. It is indeed very different in Singapore. When I had a really bad diarrhoea, I had to resort paying $30 plus for a consultation with a doctor nearer to my home – I couldn’t drag myself to the panel clinics that will get me free consultation/medication. Oh well.

    1. Cart reminded me that the hospital that I went to was an emergency hospital, so that was why it was free. I suppose in regular clinics, even the government ones would need a small payment fee.

      But yeah, I can imagine the scene. I dont know anyone who can speak Russian! hahaha

  2. We contribute alot of money every month towards this fabulous health system whether we use it or not (in addition we also pay for private medical insurance) and was told that after 5 years of annually renewing our subscription we’ll finally get it for life – but unfortunately we’ll be leaving before that.

    The good thing is that they don’t look at your colour or pocket when you go to them in an emergency – which is the principle of humaneness, but this system whereby one part of the population contributes for the rest can be quite irritating not to say unfair. If I pay more than the others, I just expect better treatment, but alas it doesn’t work out that way.

    I’ve lived in France, Spain and Germany in Europe and I can tell you that the public health system is much better in France and in Germany. I’ve honestly never had so little interest in me as a patient than here in Modena and the dental service sucks. Like for taxes, many of the Italians must not be paying their dues.

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