Fast tracking Italian public hospitals

Photo by Catherine Rodgers Giussani

I've have been forgetting alot of appointments and having weird headaches lately so my general practitioner suggested that I see a neurologist.  I booked an appointment through  the provincial health care call center  Azienda Sanitaria di Lombardia. It  has really changed in last few years.   

Before you would wait hours in line just get an appointment, then again to pay then again to register, pregnant women included.  I found this out when on foot racing back and forth over a three-day period to get an amniocentesis and just luckily getting the appointment at 16 weeks soon after I found out I was expecting. 

What I have found in using the system over the last decade is that the doctors are highly motivated to be precise about their diagnosis however lack bedside manner.  The brashness can be terrifying if you don't feel confident in the language and are unfamiliar with the circuitous path you are sent on at hospitals and clinics. 

You'll find elevators without numbers  that lead to corridors with no signage and entire floor unnumbered simply called  "Melanoma." Oh, the drama is right out of a medical horror movie.

Keep a blind eye to these vagarities and the system really does work perhaps because the doctors sign on for the science and not the money and the nurses triage expertly.   

Yesterday I received a very useful reminder message on my phone,  with the date and time, address and phone number for the appointment at via Lamarmora, 5. The Policlinico,  a downtown complex of colossal buildings dating from 1890-present day has some abandoned buildings while other brim with life. 

Patients still wait in line to make and pay for appointments and doctors and nurses crowd the lounge drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. Some traditions die hard. 

My appointment for 9:15. Calculating time for asking directions, reception, payment, waiting room, asking questions to the specialist it took ten minutes. I was out the door by 9:25.  What used to take all day was over before I knew it.  I briskly walked in the rain to the next pavilion to schedule the MRI at the Montaggio building with the neurologist's prescription and after two minutes my number popped up and I handed the clerk the doctor's order.

"Novembre" is all I heard. I looked at her quizzically. "Novembre?" She confirmed that the first available MRI appointment would be in November.  Six months from now. "Use the call center to find another location sooner, she suggested." So I'll do that but wonder about the seriously ill who need a test STAT that can't go the private route? 

If anything can cure hypochondriasis,  it is the Italian medical care system.  

For today a shorter and simpler recipe to avoid any headache.

Day Six - Recipe Six 

Nigella's scallops and chorizo