I called on Monday and the secretary answered after about ten seconds on hold with the name of the Dr’s Office.
“Salve!” I started with the more formal version of ciao, “I’d like to make an appointment with Dr. N, please.”
“Ok,” she paused as if expecting more information, “Wednesday we have morning and afternoon, Thursday..” I made an appointment for Friday, the earliest I could. She took my name, said thank you, and we hung up. I know that now you can book Dr’s appointments online in the US, but I’m almost positive you need a tad bit more information than your name and what time you feel like walking into the office.
I rode my bike down the Mugnone, under the railroad tracks, past the old fortress, over the new tram tracks to the airport, and down just outside the old gate of Porta al Prato and parked in the bike parking. I walked in precisely at my appointment time, and the doctor’s door was open through the reception and he smiled and welcomed me in to sit in front of his desk. An assistant doctor (most likely in training) was next to him.
“Allora, dimmi!” Well then, tell me, he began and blindly welcomed whatever ailments I had in my arsenal during this visit as he leaned back in his chair. My doctor here is Rami’s family doctor and they’ve known him for years. He is married to an American, so if my Italian vocab isn’t up to par for medical slang, there isn’t a problem and I can speak in English, but today especially with the other Dr. there, I stuck to Italian. I had wanted to stop by to check two spots on my skin that were looking a little unusual. Skin cancer runs through my family (damn Irish) and I wanted to make sure that I was in the clear. I explained as much and the two of them leaned over to see my arm and then my side.
The Doctor laughed and tapped the freckles on my arms, telling me I was right to come and check seeing how pale I am (thanks) but that I was fine, no need to worry. One spot was just a mole. “If it bothers you I can take it off if you want?” He motioned to a corner of the room as if ready to get it done that moment, but it doesn’t bother me at all as long as it isn’t cancer, so I politely refused.
We sat back at the desk, he told me if I saw anything else worrisome to come back whenever I needed to. I asked him to renew a prescription while I was there (I can also just call in and ask the secretary to renew it, then pick it up without ever seeing a Dr.).
“Say hello to Rami and the family,” he said as I shook his hand and walked out and thanked the secretary on my way. No payment, no waiting rooms, no co-pays, no flimsy little gowns, no paperwork, and no cancer!
I don’t know everyone, I’m not saying that Italy is perfect or any of the systems are pristine here, but I can go and ask my Dr about simple health-related concerns anytime. I can call or visit a doctor instead of scouring the internet for answers and hoping everything will be fine because I-just-can’t-afford-it-right-now. I really do believe this is the way it should be, and it can be for everyone. Again, not perfect. No way. But – isn’t this the way healthcare should be as a basic principle? It’s like the kid version of what healthcare is: get sick, go to the doctor, the doctor helps make you feel better.