Saturday, September 10, 2005



Today was our first visit to a specialist and it was very interesting. Of course our first introduction into the Italian healthcare system was back in July when Art had some sort of seizure while we were sitting on the patio. Since that two day hospital stay Art has visited with our new family doctor a few times, receiving advice and prescriptions for medicine and for follow-up tests.

Because we forgot to keep the follow-up appointment with the neurologist and subsequently saw a private doctor, Wendy’s friend, that visit was a little different from one within the system. We met with Nicola in the office of an OB/GYN, surrounded by posters of babies in utero, the female reproductive system and information about breast-feeding. A strange experience!

The blood test that Art had done was at the hospital in Marsciano and required nothing more than his paperwork and a rolled up sleeve. When the results were ready Art picked them up and took them to our family doctor for review….and other than high cholesterol, caused by the fact that Art hadn’t been taking the cholesterol medication for over a month, everything looked good. The family doctor told Art to go back on his cholesterol medication, switched his pain medication and told him everything else looked good.

We still had the follow-up appointment with the heart doctor, and that appointment was this afternoon. We had to go into the clinic offices in Ponte San Giovanni, and had no trouble finding them. As we walked into the clinic, we saw several waiting areas, each marked with the specialties they served. The waiting room we needed served an eye doctor in one office, a neurologist and diabetes doctor who shared an office, and the cardiologist in another office. The waiting area was filled with people, each clutching their prescription form and appointment information.

We had arrived about twenty minutes early, so we were anxious to see just how this system worked. Signs on the door cautioned that in order to see a doctor you must have an appointment. As mentioned previously you must get the order from your family doctor, then go to the local farmacia where the appointment will be made via computer. Sometimes we’re amazed at the efficient way things are done here.

The door to the cardiologist’s office opened, he looked at his sheet, called a name, and the person whose turn it was walked into the office. We were the next ones to be seen, and after a few minutes the patient emerged from the room, the doctor called our name and we walked in. No receptionist, no nurse, no technician, just the doctor. What a system.

The room was quite large. We sat down in front of the desk and gave the doctor our paperwork. After he had checked Art’s name off his list we gave him the discharge letter from the hospital containing the test results. He looked them over, asked Art a few questions about his medications, then asked Art to step over to the other section of the room. A three section room divider with white fabric panels separated the two areas. A basic examination table sat on the other side of the room, along with a few pieces of very basic equipment.

The doctor had Art remove his shirt and lay down. He attached some sort of clamps to Art’s ankles, and then electrodes to his chest. After the EFG was complete he listened to Art’s heart, and that was that. As Art buttoned up his shirt the doctor handed the EKG results to me, telling us that we could show them to our doctor in the United States. He said everything looked and sounded perfectly normal, and reassured Art that the pains he’d been having were NOT heart related.

We found this doctor to be very personable and caring, and the whole experience was pleasant and efficient. Altho we did have to pay an extra fee to see this specialist, it was only €24.53. So far the Italian healthcare system is okay as far as we’re concerned. Let’s hope we don’t have too many other opportunities to test our luck.


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