This past December I got smacked with a bizarre malady – perpetual dizziness. Now, I know that I have been called a “dizzy broad” but this was terrible. A hospital admission, followed by the alphabet list of tests and the mystery dizziness continues. Leaving the hospital they told me to see my Primary Care Physician. So I called my PCP and the gatekeeper said “We can see you in 10 days.” Ten days?! Are you f’n kidding me. I’m dizzy today.
I may be dizzy but during this insanity I saw clearly one of the differences between health care in Pontelandolfo and New Jersey. Need to see my Primary Care Physician in Pontelandolfo – no appointment necessary! Right, NO waiting ten days after a hospital stay to see your PCP – just walk in!
There are other parts of the Italian Health Care system that may not be so easy to wrangle – we’ll save those stories for another day. Today, I want to talk about Dottore Pasquale Palumbo.
HIs studio medico is on the third floor of Piazza Roma 1 – correct, there is no elevator. I know what you’re thinking. How the hell is a doctor whose office on the third floor of a ancient building with no elevator accessible? HE MAKES HOUSE CALLS! Remember those? When I was a wee one – when the dinosaurs roamed the earth – Doc Husted came to the house. Now you need a concierge doctor on retainer if you want that. In Pontelandolfo, the charming Dottore Palumbo regularly visits his patients in their homes. The first time we met him he was visiting our landlady – he pops in to check her blood pressure. He recognized Jack and said – “I know you, you’re the crazy man who walks at noon – walk earlier.” Every time I see him, he reminds me to tell Jack to walk before noon.
When I first got accepted into the Italian Health Care System, the administrator at the Azienda Sanitaria Locale asked me to be honest and tell them whenever I was leaving the country. That way, no practitioner would be paid for me when I wasn’t in the country. Apparently, there are folks on the list who immigrated and never took themselves off the list – what a lousy thing to do. Pontelandolfo is part of the Distretto Sanitario Benevento Nord-Est – Morcone ASL and I made sure to stop by and tell them we were heading to the USA.
Dottore Palumbo practices Medico generico. Since he is in our home town, I picked him as my general practitioner. That means, I’m on his list as a patient and he gets paid regularly for me. He is my primary care physician.
My first visit to Dottore Palumbo had me huffing and puffing up those three flights. When I got to the top and looked at the view, I raised my victory fist in the air. The steps are a great free cardio workout!
Yoo Hoo Can You See Me Up Here?
When you go through the door to the office, the most noticeable thing is the absence of staff. There is no receptionist, no nurse, no billing department – niente! What a great way to cut those costs. I walked into the waiting room, looked at who sat waiting in the chairs and knew I went after them. An elderly gentleman peeked in the room and said, Chi è il prossimo? The next person went in – we didn’t need a receptionist. When it was my turn, I proudly walked in and gave him my new Tessera Sanitaria.
My Tessera Sanitaria and Codice Fiscal. Health Care and Social Security Cards
Dotter Palumbo didn’t ask me my name, he knew who I was – this is a very small village – asked me about my cousins, husband and myself. Pulled my new record up on his laptop and asked me why I was there. Bronchitis. After the exam he gave me my ricetta. No euro changed hands. I will not be billed – visits are part of the health care system.
I walked down the stairs across the piazza to la farmacia and got my drugs. ( Here’s the link to a pharmacy story – http://wp.me/p3rc2m-bh) When patients call Dottore Palumbo for refills he writes the prescriptions and when he goes home for lunch, he carries them across the piazza himself.
He is a great man and everyone loves him. What is not to love, a doctor who comes to your house, has great office hours and is always smiling. Now, I don’t want to be sick, but when I get back to town I will be sure to stop by and bring the good doctor a caffè.
(TRUTH TIME – when the gatekeeper in NJ told me it would be ten days before I could see my PCP after a wretched time in the hospital I promptly hung up. Having learned how to work the medical system, I called back, hacked into the phone, talked through my nose, coughed repeatedly and got in the next day.)