Italian health care needs treatment

Recent study shows dissatisfaction with pulic services

Editorial Staff
March 23, 2006

With one of the longest life-spans in the world, Italians seem to be doing something right when it comes to taking care of themselves. Good food, frequent social interaction, a stroll of two around the piazza may just be the secret to good health. But just how healthy is Italy’s public health-care system?  Often cited abroad as a possible model for socialised medical care, the Italian public health system seems like a dream for some and a nightmare for others. The latest report published by Pit Salute Cittadinanzattiva sheds light on primary concerns plaguing health care in Italy.  


What worries many patients is the wait. Waiting lists are especially long for specialised medical appointments or diagnostic exams. Southern and Central Italian regions prove to be particularly prone to long waiting lists. Many patients expect a one-year wait for a mammogram. A surgical operation planned today is most likely to be at least 550 days away. There’s often a four-month-long wait before a patient can get operated on for a tumour. But what if it can’t wait? Then, in many cases, what you save in time, you will pay for in money. There are outrageous costs for those who opt for private health care, the study says. 25 thousand euro is what it takes to avoid the three month wait for a breast cancer operation. The ticket to immediate orthopaedic surgery costs 15 thousand euro.


If time is one pressing issue for Italian health-care than geographical space is another. The disparity of health services between Italian regions is a common concern for citizens. According  to Cittadinanzattiva many people polled complain of having difficulty finding treatment outside of their region of residence.  23.2% of people who have changed their residence for brief periods of time claimed they’ve been unable to register with a temporary family doctor. 27.6% of people interviewed have had problems obtaining drugs and medicine in their own region. Lazio was classified as the region with the most complaints filed. Not far behind were Lombardy, Sicily, Campania, Puglia and Calabria.

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