Are doctors masters or servants?

cardiologist with patient : Medical doctor cardiologist.

Unfortunately, after the influenza in January I got some nasty complications. Therefore, during the last 3 months I have made a full immersion to the Italian health care system. I wrote already in an earlier blog Italian health care system that according to me this system works well.

The very first step when I got sick was to go to our family doctor. Because I had already been sick and got again a high fever and tachycardia, he decided to send me to make X-ray exam and ECG. Then he sent me to a cardiologist and to an echocardiography. At this moment I noticed some problems in this system. From public health system, I could have got an appointment with cardiologist after three months and echocardiography next November (it was February when I asked). Therefore, I decided to consult a private cardiologist. The cardiologist wanted me to take some blood exams so our family doctor gave me a referral to these exams and in addition to these exams, our family doctor added several other exams.

blood test : syringe injecting blood into a tube

After antibiotics, exams etc. doctors (family doctor, cardiologist, infectologist) could not figure out the cause of my tachycardia and other symptoms. So one beautiful day I went to our doctor and asked if it were possible that it would be one particular virus that causes problems and if I should be tested for that. Then happened something I expected the least. Our family doctor (I have been his patient for 15 years) just got mad with me. He started to yell and insult how I dare to come and give some medical suggestions to him. He yelled and claimed that I had already had too many tests (either he or an expert had asked all those texts and exams – this was a first blood test that I asked) and that he hates Google. I left the studio feeling bad with a referral to do that blood exam in my hand. The other patients outside watched me surprised, because they had heard everything outside.

doctor yelling : Frustrated medical doctor yelling through megaphone

This kind of treatment heart me profoundly. I have always thought that if I suggest something the doctor is supposed to tell me if it is possible, if not he explains why not. Instead, our doctor felt threatened. Usually we go to a doctor because we are sick or we have some health concerns. Nobody goes to tell how great he or she feels. After this experience, I started to think that some Italian doctors (maybe also other nationalities) feel that they are so much above the ordinary people that they are immediately after the God. Only they can know and nobody can suggest to them anything, because patients cannot know anything.

stupid patient : Medical Tablet with the Diagnosis of Stupidity on the Display and a Black Stethoscope on White Background.

According to me a criteria to a good doctor is not only that they are competent, but also humility, respect towards the patients and a deep humanity are important characteristics. There is always the psychological factor in every illness and sometimes part of the heeling process is that the patient is respected and listened and that the patient can ask and suggest without being violated psychologically. Unfortunately, I notice that this experience has affected my general attitude towards doctors. It will take a while before I learn to trust doctors again – our family doctor not.

 My absolutely favorite doctor


Italian health care system

When I moved here, I was a bit worried about the local health care system. You know Italians are very nice people, but disorganized. I was convinced that health care system would be near a disaster. When I moved here, I still belonged to the Finnish health care system, so I had a small booklet with detachable pages that I was supposed to give to the doctor.

I became pregnant quite soon after we moved here. Therefore, I went to the local doctor that our property owner had recommended. Then I learned that usually you go to a private gynecologist that follows you through the pregnancy. During the first year, I really learned how the system works here. The local doctor got a big bunch of green pages because here a pregnant woman goes to blood tests almost once a month and the doctor writes the blood tests you are supposed to take. Then my son was 3 years old and had all the possible flues during that year.

The hospital where my daughter was born was old (after many years finally there is a new hospital at Como). I had a planned cesarean section and I have to say that the anesthesiologist was fantastic. When he heard that I am from Finland, he shouted “Forza Häkkinen”. My husband could not get into the operation room and I said to this anesthesiologist what a pity that I cannot have any pictures of our newborn baby. This anesthesiologist promised to take pictures. When I developed the pictures, I was shocked. He had taken photos when they were taking out my son from my stomach. I saw my own stomach open and the head of the baby coming out.

After a year, I started to belong to the Italian health system. I chose the family doctor (the same that I went to with my green booklet) and the pediatrician to my kids. Doctors do not charge you anything when you go to an appointment. Nowadays I call the doctor in the morning and explain what the problem is. Then he gives the appointment the same day or then he gives advices over the phone. Here in Lombardy children under 14 do not pay specialists, all free. Naturally private doctors charge and usually a lot. I find this family doctor system excellent. We have the whole family the same doctor. I can go to him and get receipts for my kids or for my husband. He also makes home visits if you are too sick to leave the house.

When your own doctor is not available, like late in the evening or weekends, you can call “Guardia medica”  and they come home to visit you or you can go to their reception. In serious cases, you can naturally go to the emergency room. Ambulances are free and so is hospital.

After what I have heard about the Finnish health system, I have to say that Italian system works much better. Not without a reason WHO chose a couple of years ago the Italian system among the three best health care systems in the world. Italians should be proud to have such a great system and excellent doctors.


The Italians and the health

I have lived in this great country 15 years and I have raised my children here. During these years, I have learned a lot about the Italian way of being sick. The biggest threat in this country is colpo d’aria (“hit of air” literally translated). This lurks behind every corner and is ready attack the innocent person any time. You can get plenty of symptoms from this awful threat: a flu, fever, cough, sour throat, running nose, stomachache, headache etc. The Italians have learned to protect themselves against this merciless enemy. However, how do they know how to protect?

Rule number 1: Look at the calendar and dress according to it. So, if there are 12 degrees in December it is perfectly fine to wear winter boots, a fur (if you own one), winter jackets, a wool scarf etc. Kids look like little Michelin man from December until February-March.

Rule 2: Avoid situations where you can be hit by colpo d’aria. I remember when my daughter was newborn. It was a hot day in the beginning of September and I had an appointment with our pediatrician. When I entered the examination room, it was hot there inside. For my great surprise, the doctor closed the window immediately, because otherwise my daughter could have been hit by colpo d’aria. This was the first time I understood that in this country of great beauty hides a terrible, invisible enemy called colpo d’aria.

Then Italians can get sick, because they are hit by cold. If you have stomachache, it is probably due to the fact that you have got cold. Then never go out with wet hair, because you can get cold also this way. When I was young and lived in Finland, it was normal to go out with wet hair after the gym class also in winter and I’m still alive and here in Italy it is not cold ever.

Then especially in spring and autumn, the reason for many diseases is the change of the season (cambio stagione). If I tell to our friend in May that my son is sick, she will say very seriously that the reason is cambio stagione. Then the Italians have all these believes about food as if you are supposed to eat orange only in the morning. One belief about the food and eating in general is that you have to wait 3-4 hours after a meal before you can go swimming. Mine go when they want without any problems. My parents told me to wait always 30 minutes.

When it is about the health, it is much easier to live in Finland. We go swimming immediately after eating, winter can turn to spring and we don’t have serious health problems, we can eat an orange also in the evening and the best is that we don’t have that awful, dreadful thing called colpo d’aria in Finland.

The other story is then the health system in Italy. I will write about it the next time.