Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Perils Of Fast Food

Italy has a perfectly fine public health system, but it doesn’t encourage audience participation. Here’s Ralph’s story. One year ago he wobbled into my office barely on the mend from food poisoning, the sitting-on-the-toilet-holding-a-bucket-to-barf-in kind, that had started 10 hours after having a burger and shake at one of Rome’s forty-one McDonald’s. Obvious food poisoning, and a menace to other customers.
Being a good citizen I set out to make a formal report so an investigator could be dispatched to start testing those Big Macs. After dialing a dozen health department numbers trying to find out how, I finally found someone who knew the correct answer: forget it, Dottoressa. In the UK a physician who suspects restaurant-acquired gastroenteritis is legally obliged to report it, and in the US it’s strongly advised. In Italy, the physician can’t do a thing – by law, I was told, only the injured person him- or herself can do the reporting.
When I passed this information on to Ralph, he proved to be an even better citizen than me. He tracked down the address of the proper office and trotted over there the next day. The man behind the desk heard him out then said, “OK, before we start our investigation we need your receipt for that meal.” My patient made the Italian both-palms-up gesture of astonishment: “You must be kidding. There's no way I'd have held onto the receipt for a fast-food hamburger I ate a week ago.” Employee: “What, no receipt? You threw it away on your way home? Sorry,” he said, tossing the report in the trash. “We can’t take your complaint if we don’t first have proof you ate that night at McDonald’s.”

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Italian Public Medicine: Testimony From My Readers

·      I gave birth to my second one at Fatebenefratelli Hospital. I still remember it as an experience from a third world country.
·      I had a protesi inverso [reverse prosthesis] right shoulder done, great young doctor, great 50 days therapy after, all free. I have a young woman base doctor here in my town and she has saved me twice on diagnosis...
·      an email written at 11:39 AM: Here at xxxx Hospital since 8:00am, haven't yet seen the doctor (eye check up). So far 82 patients all in different stages of waiting and all assured we will be seen....
·      My son had a collapsed lung and was immediately operated on for free by a top doctor. That son is now studying medicine, practically for free...
·      I had the personal experience of visiting a friend's father who was in a Firenze hospital with lung cancer. The green tile on the walls of the rooms and hallways harkened back to 50s operating rooms, and the oxygen breathing apparatus he was using was a crude enclosure that sat on his head and covered his face with a plastic mask. He shared the room with another patient who smoked during our visit.
·      I just could not bear to hear one more doctor say "Non si preoccupi signora, ci penso io" [Don’t worry your little head, ma’am, I’ll take care of everything] when I had a question.
·      My experience with the health system in Italy was positive. I had the same GP throughout (22 years), neither of us aged a day, I never paid a penny. My best experience was when I succumbed to a bout of despondency in the doctor's studio, this about 1992, in tears I was, and he poured me a glass of whiskey.