Health care is a global topic this year, and is most certainly on the minds of every American I know. Everytime we meet an American vacationing here in Italy, one of the first questions we are asked is what is the Italian health system like. Since we've just had our first surgical experience in a hospital here, I thought this would be a perfect topic for blogging.
A bit of background info is needed first : My husband Mike was having some abdominal pain, which, after doing some research on WebMd, he self diagnosed as a hernia. He made an appointment with his doctor here in Venice, who confirmed it. The doctor told him the hernia was small, and probably would not be operated on until it got bigger, but, he gave him a referral to a surgeon. The surgeon examined Mike, and decided to operate sooner, rather than later. Since it wasn't life threatening, his surgery was scheduled in July, about 90 days following his first visit to the surgeon. He had several phone calls with the scheduling office at the hospital, everything seemed very efficient.
On the morning of the operation, we left home around 6:15, taking the vaporetto from Piazzale Roma to Ospedale. Mike was to report to Day Surgery at 7:30 am. He had been advised to bring pajamas and clogs with him, and not to eat any breakfast. We arrived a bit early, so we joined a few others already in the waiting room. At 7:30, we queued up outside the nurses office to be checked in. They actually came down the line and called for Mike to come forward. We then discovered he was scheduled to be operated on first that day. Good thing to know.
Following some paper signing, we were shown to a hospital room down the hall which had 3 beds in it. It was large and very clean, and also had a bathroom with a shower. Mike was taken to the bathroom where the nurse shaved an area on his abdomen. Mike was told to take his clothes off, wrap a green sheet around him, and get on the gurney. The nurse covered him with a blanket, and they wheeled him off to the Operating Room.
Here is where I noted a difference between hospitals in the US and in Italy. They did not have hospital gowns, not even disposable ones. You wrap up in a sheet instead. Ok.. I can see that this would save a bit. Hmmm.... Mr. Obama, maybe this would cut a line item out of the health care reform bill.
While the surgery was taking place, I went down into Campo Giovanni e Paolo to Rosa Salva for tea and a brioche. About an hour later I returned to Mike's hospital room to await his return.
Mike was wheeled into his room about an hour later than had been estimated. It turns out he had been given a local anesthesia, but needed something stronger. They knocked him out. His version of this is alot funnier than mine, he retells thinking the room was upside down even. You have to have a little patience with him, he had never been a patient in a hospital before, and this was his first surgery. And, for some unknown reason, he seemed to think it was going to be a party. I had cautioned him that no matter how small the incision might be, it was still abdominal surgery. I thought it was going to sting. I won.
He remained in the hospital room until almost 5pm that day, during which time the nurses came several times to check on him, make sure he could get up and walk about, and get to the bathroom ok. A doctor came in to examine him also, and gave him the final ok to go home. They gave him some pain medication to take with him, and made an appointment for the next Monday morning for a follow-up appointment.
We were incredibly impressed with the care and attention Mike received. Everyone, and I mean everyone, made extra effort to ensure that we understood exactly what we needed to understand. If there was someone who didn't speak English very well, they went and got someone else who did speak better to help them. They didn't have to do any of that, we were the ones who should have been speaking better Italian. In short, we were highly impressed every step of the way.
As for differences... besides the hospital gown, there is one other thing. This cost roughly 75 Euros for the whole thing, including the office visit to the surgeon, the surgery, and the follow up visit. Wow.