ITALIAN HOSPITALS, MEDICAL CARE AND HEALTH ISSUES IN ITALY
Since 1978, Italy has had its own national health service (the
SSN or Servizio Sanitario Nazionale), similar to the British
NHS, and based on the principle of ‘universal entitlement’,
with the State providing free and equal access to preventive
medical care and rehabilitation services to all residents.
And in theory, EU visitors shouldn’t need health insurance,
being entitled to the same health care entitlements as any
Italian. But not every national health service is the same,
nor does it provide the same benefits. Britons, after all,
may enjoy free visits to the GP, but they have to pay for a
trip to the dentist. In Italy, free and universal health care,
coupled with an ageing population, has put a major strain on
the system. Now there is an elaborate system of co-payment
for drugs, specialists' consultations and treatments, and lab
tests. Some Italians are exempted from co-payments such as
elderly, chronic patients, disabled individuals and people
with low incomes.
The bottom line? It’s safer to ensure you’ve adequate
health insurance, it invariably comes as part of your travel
insurance anyway. British visitors should always carry a completed
E111, obtainable free of charge from British Post Offices.
This will help you get emergency medical treatment in Italian
state hospitals. Australia also has a healthcare arrangement
with Italy. For more information, visitors should check with
their home Government department with responsibility for overseas
travel. American readers can go to http://travel.state.gov/italy.html and
UK readers to www.fco.gov.uk/travel.
Ensure your travel and health insurance is up to date. What
does it cover you for? Will your insurer arrange to have you
shipped home if you are incapacitated? Can they supply a cash
advance to settle up-front demands for payment from a hospital?
Trust us, it’s always a false economy to travel without
insurance. Also check that your travel or motor insurance protects
you against injuries to other parties; accidents can happen
and you don’t want to be dealing with both a foreign
language and a foreign legal system single handed. You’ll
find opticians quite cheap and dentists rather expensive in
Italy. As ever, if you can pre-empt emergencies (have a dental
check-up and buy spare glasses and contact lenses before you
travel) then do so.
You don’t need any jabs to visit Italy and, contrary
to popular myth, the water is safe to drink, though carrying
a bottle of mineral water is wise; in a hot Italian summer
you’re far more likely to suffer from dehydration than
poisoning. Ensure you protect yourself adequately against the
heat and sun. Mediterranean dwellers are far less enthusiastic
about exposing their flesh to blazing midday sun than northern
Europeans, and they have the right idea. Short-term heatstroke
and long-term skin cancers are just two of the dangers. Drinking
alcohol and then baking in the sun is another surefire way
of dehydrating and impairing your judgement about how hot it
really is. Cover up, and use sun blocks if in doubt.
Mosquitoes can be a problem, though a nuisance rather than
a danger. There are any number of ingenious answers, from nets,
to repellent creams and sprays, to dinky little devices that
deliver an electrical charge thus removing the swelling. Take
a trip to your local farmacia where they will be happy to give
advice. In fact a trip to the pharmacy is good for a range
of minor ailments, with Italian pharmacists qualified to make
diagnoses and hand out prescriptions for a limited range of
complaints. If they can’t help, they will be able to
refer you to the local doctor (medico). Coverage of GPs is
rather better than in Britain, with most villages having a
practice. Ask your hotelier or host, or look in the Yellow
Pages (Pagine Gialle) under (Azienda) Unita Sanitaria Locale.
The ASLs are the regional health authorities, sub-divisions
of the SSN. Again, Britons should take their E111 form, as
this will get prescriptions at reduced prices. Should
you need a repeat prescription from your home doctor, then
take your empty pill bottle with you, as many drugs are dispensed
by trade rather than generic names, and these can differ from
country to country – think Nurofen and Ibuprofen.
If you need A&E or ER, head for the local hospital and
its Pronto Soccorso department. Emergency phone numbers are
as follows: 112 for the Carabinieri, 113 for general emergencies
(ask for ospedale or ambulanza), 115 for the fire service,
116 for roadside assistance and 118 for an ambulance.
Alternative therapies are also very popular in Italy, and whether
you require Rolfing, acupressure, aroma or colour therapy,
or any of a thousand other treatments, the Yellow Pages (Pagine
Gialle) is the place to look.
*Disclaimer: All our information is correct at time of
writing, however knowital.com and/or Ginestra Internet cannot be held responsible
for any changes, omissions or errors of fact. We strongly advise you to
of before you begin your holiday.