Mamma required a “prelieve”, or blood test, and was told to report to the aforementioned clinic on a Wednesday morning, at 8 o’clock. We arrived at 07.55 “preciso”, to find that there were already about 10 people waiting. The clinic was a particularly drab and uninspiring place, with several different departments housed in one small dilapidated building. It is rather like being in a 1970’s time warp. The phlebotomist soon arrived and asked for all our red forms which she gathered up in a hasty, haphazard fashion. More patients steadily arrived until the waiting area was practically bursting at the seams. When she stuck her head out of the door again, it became evident that the nurse was becoming increasing hot under the collar, not to mention crimson in the face. “How on earth”, she said “was she supposed to take all these blood samples on her own, before the driver arrived at 9 am to transport them to the hospital laboratory.”
A couple of defiant patients tried to rugby tackle and barrage their way through to her quarters, however she and a colleague managed to forcibly bundle them back out, telling them to behave themselves and to wait in and orderly fashion like everyone else. There were various exclamations of “Madonna mia!”, “Che scema!”, “Che macello!” as the throng became more and more disgruntled. In the interim, we just sat quietly, Mamma in her wheelchair beside me, incredulously observing the commotion. By this time all the forms had become jumbled up, so there was utter confusion as to who was next in turn. Suddenly Mamma’s name was called out, and we followed the nurse into a small room. The nurse was in fact very kind to my mother, she seemed to be glad to have a “shoulder to cry on” and was very appreciative that we had not made a fuss, like many of the other patients. She said that the test results would be ready in a week’s time, and we needed to come back and collect them from the clinic and then take them ourselves to our doctor so that he could evaluate the findings. I’ll have you know that we were mighty glad to make our escape from this “bedlam”. It had been a truly eye-opening experience.
On another occasion we were told to go directly to the hospital for blood tests. Once again we were told to arrive at 8 am. We arrived a little early to find that there was a sizeable horde of people already gathered, perhaps some of them had become wise to the fact, and had opted to camp out all night, as at Wimbledon, to be first in the queue! We presented the red form, which the administrator delighted in rejecting as we hadn’t got it stamped at the hospital’s reception block. Paul dashed back to rectify this oversight, and on the second attempt the form was deemed acceptable and we were allocated another number – “Numero 79″. The illuminated number board was flashing 21. We realised we were in for the long haul. Over an hour later our number was called. I had to restrain myself from shouting “Bingo!!!” The blood sample was finally taken, I might add – not in the privacy of a cubical, then we were allocated yet another number, on a slip of paper, and told to report with this to the hospital’s Results Department in 3 or 4 days time to get a printout. Once again it would be our responsibility to take them to our GP for his perusal.
In Italy my father, Hugh, became renamed as “Ugo”. Just prior to leaving the UK he had found that his eyesight was beginning to fail and he was diagnosed as suffering from cataracts in both eyes.
Initially we considered returning to the UK for him to have the necessary operations, however eventually we elected to organise a consultation with an Italian Eye Specialist. This first involved getting Dottore Rossi to fill out a red form known as a “ticket”. The next step was to present this at the local USL clinic. Being completely new to this “game” we had to attempt to learn the rules of engagement. We asked one of the nurses what we needed to do. Once again there was no appointment system, she just told us to sit and take our turn in the waiting area, which was already heaving with patients. Having sat there patiently, like true Brits, for some time eventually a kindly lady who was sitting nearby, tried to explain that we needed to take a number from the ticket dispenser, rather like those you find on a supermarket deli counter. We pulled out a ticket, “Numero 37″. We now had to start waiting again, from the back of the queue, trying to eyeball everyone else’s numbers to see who was before and after us in the log jam. In Italian waiting rooms, patients do not tend to sit quietly, speaking only in hushed voices as is the norm in the UK. Here everyone talks loudly, some moaning about the inefficiency of the health system, other discussing in every minute detail their particular ailments, each trying to outdo the other with their unfortunate experiences and ailments. Whenever the door of the side room opened the call “Avanti!” was emitted, which prompted a tidal surge, as patients endeavoured to avoid the system and push their way in front. At long last it came to our turn, and we sprinted forward into the office, where we found a young lady seated in front of a laptop computer. She entered our details, the computer searched for an appointment at all the hospitals in the region, and as if by magic the printer churned out an “impegnativo”. This then has to be authorised by a doctor’s signature and, last but not least …. You guessed it ??? Rubber stamped !!!
She was a charming lady, and after completing a thorough examination, said that due to his age, she would put “Ugo” on her list for state paid cataract operations. Quite soon, to our surprise, a letter arrived with a date for his operation, which would involve him having to stay in hospital overnight for observation. On the said date, after being admitted to hospital he had to undergo a series of pre-op checkups. It was discovered that his blood pressure was dangerously high which meant that for now the operation was out of the question, and this was a great disappointment to my father, as his sight was progressively deteriorating. He was swiftly referred to see a Cardiologist who altered “Ugo’s” medication in an attempt to stabilise his condition. Sadly this was just the beginning of a prolonged period of health problems for both of my parents.