Not as a blood donor but for analysis, I gave up several tubes of blood this morning. As a private party, I visit a private clinic where women in navy blue dresses resembling flight attendants greet you at the door and escort you to the counter where you are helped and issued a receipt listing the services to be performed. A consultation with a doctor is provided, if desired or necessary.
Actually, I feel more like I am in a private villa than in a medical laboratory clinic. The building is lovely, filled with antique furniture and original artwork. Each painting has a label indicating the artist. I recognize many original works by Boccaccio. You wait to see a doctor or to be called for your lab work in small rooms with homey furniture as opposed to medical appliances and commercial furniture.
The phlebotomist asks if I fasted. I tell her yes and "non vedo l'ora" (I can't wait) until I will enjoy a coffee and breakfast since I am starving. Following the blood draw, I am escorted back to the studio and told to wait ten minutes when breakfast will be brought to me. What?! They serve me breakfast? My plan is to stop at the nearest bar for a cappuccino and eat when I return home. Fewer than ten minutes later, a woman rolls in a linen-covered table upon which sit a sterling silver vase with a fresh rose, Florentine china holding a pot of caffe Americano alongside a pitcher of hot milk, blood red orange juice, and a continental-style breakfast. The container that holds packets of sugar and sugar substitutes is sterling. I have to turn it over to look, which I also do with the china and not because I am a snob but because I am surprised at the level of attention to detail that is provided. Even the doilies are linen. Actually, I feel embarrassed to be treated so well at a clinic.
For the average Italian, the private medical system is too expensive. I admit the total lab work I do is not inexpensive. But even with my private health insurance in California, I am accustomed to a price more than double today's price for the same tests. And that is my out-of-pocket expense, not what I would owe after insurance pays their small portion and my $400-a-month premium, before the premium increased an ungodly percentage this past January.
The entire episode from the minute I walk in the door, order and pay for my lab work, wait, have the blood drawn, and have breakfast is under 30 minutes. Efficient. And that's not all. The results for the majority of the exams are available the same day after 12:30 p.m. either by returning to the clinic or having the results faxed or emailed to you. And for privacy (think HIPAA), you are issued a codice (code) to access your results.
Last fall, visiting another Tuscan town with family that visited from the States, we had a need for an ambulance. Two ambulances and six paramedics arrived within minutes, and treatment began immediately. No questions were asked about the name of the patient, health insurance information, means of payment, et cetera. Treatment was rendered, period. In the end, it may be a tie as to who was in more shock: the three of us at the way the system worked and medical attention was No. 1 or the six paramedics at our amazement that they wanted no payment, no insurance, no tip, nothing.
I am not saying one system is better, just different. I like what I have experienced so far with the Italian health system. With treatment and services that made me feel a bit like a queen today, I just may return tomorrow morning. I remain impressed.