Since the expat blogosphere could obviously do with a few more long, drawn out tales of bureaucracy, frustration and system failure (note the teeny-tiny hint of irony..), I thought I would add my 10 pence worth. Don’t worry – this blog isn’t going to turn into one of those moan-moan-winge-winge Italy-bashing forums… Hell, who am I kidding? It totally is….Anzi, it ALREADY is!! Just kidding – it won’t. Promise.
Anyway, following on from my little visit to the lovely non-judgmental doctor (irony’s my thing today), I took myself off to the San Matteo hospital in Pavia this morning to get my blood work done, arriving at 8:40. I’d already warned my boss that I may be a few minutes late for work (snigger snigger), but even though I was mentally prepared for long lines, lots of paper shuffling and some potential high blood pressure moments, I didn’t realize that the lines would be quite so long, the paper shuffled quite so much, the blood pressure…..well, through the (public health system and therefore probably asbestos-filled) roof.
Here is what followed - in notebook format in order that you don’t fall asleep whilst reading:
8:40 – arrive and go to “Ticket Desk”, wait in line for 10 minutes before being told that this is the old ticket desk and they are no longer paid for here (despite the sign above the window) –“no, Signora you have to go to the other end of the hall and take a number”. In case you don’t know, the “ticket” is the “standard” payment you have to make prior to any kind of specialist visit, blood work etc. Prices seem to vary according to what you are there for, whether or not there’s an “R” in the month, and the usual exceptions to the rule.
8:45 – locate correct ticket desk and take a number. I’m number 74, and they are currently serving number 45. Ho hum…
9:15 – make it to the (I have to say, friendly and efficient) lady behind the window, only to be told “Sorry signora, you have to do a prelievo (blood test), and for those you pay the ticket afterwards. Go straight up to the 3rd floor and take a number”. Booooooooo
9:17 – arrive at 3rd floor to find another sportello (window), staffed by 2 very slow people, another numbering system. Take a number. 90. Currently serving…… 63. Sit, wait, snooze.
9:55 – make it to window to register for my prelievo. They take my details, make me sign a few forms, huff and puff a bit, and have me take a seat in the “waiting area”. So I waited to wait to wait, effectively.
10:05 - They call me in and do the scary needle bit with no fuss ( I will emphasize again that the staff were friendly and efficient despite my very low expectations!) and then they remind me to go back downstairs and pay the freakin’ ticket.
10:10 – Get back to the ticket line and it has HUNDREDS of people in it. OK, maybe not hundreds, but enough to make my already spinning head go that little bit faster. Ah, but there’s an automated machine over in the corner with just a small line (Italians hate technology) – I’ll go over there! It even has a credit / debit card sign on it, YAY! I – somewhat victoriously – join the end of the queue and just 15 minutes later it’s my turn. This is good news as I’m now feeling seriously queasy, having left my emergency banana in the car (who was to know that they would make me wait AFTER the appointment???). As I go to get my bankcard from my wallet, the old guy behind me – obviously an expert – points out that “Signora, non funziona il bancomat”. What? How do you mean you can’t use cards?? It’s written on the machine that you can! “Eh sì, but it just doesn’t work. There were 5 of us trying earlier and we all ended up going to the cash-point down the street”. Ever the optimist (haha) I try anyway and the machine almost eats my card, so I give up and head to the little number machine. I hate that bloody number machine! I take number 202; they’re serving 151. I’m already two hours late for work. I no longer care…. Sit, wait, snooze again (feeling green this time and dreaming about the cappuccino and brioches in the bar across the road).
10:45 - I get to the window, pay my 75 euros - which hurt more than the needle – and get out of there. I am obviously exhausted and vulnerable as a charity person with a stall outside the front door of the hospital stops me and I give him 10 euros just to stop talking. I’m lying actually – it was a charity close to my heart, they seemed legitimate, and there was no line so I got to go straight to the desk. That was worth 10 euros if nothing else….
I arrive at work (35 kilometers away) at lunchtime, and glance at the papers they gave me in the hospital for the ‘ritiro’ (collection of results). Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:00 to 16:00. Marvellous….