Thursday 6 March 2008

A country that works on 'favours' Part 1

Does it seem to any of you who are from, or have lived in another country that things in Italy don't seem to work? Let me re-phrase: Things do work in Italy, they just work differently...very differently and it depends who you are, where you are and more importantly who you know. When I first moved to Italy I had no idea about the economy, politics, health system etc... I just had this feeling that I had to live here, so I followed my intuition and here I still am. As time progresses I am beginning to learn more and more about the 'confusing' state of things in this country. With the help of my bel ragazzo and my Italian colleague each day I am finding out beautiful and not not so beautiful things.

Before Italy I had only ever lived in Melbourne and London, and since living in this bel paese I have lived in Rome, Sicily and Calabria. For argument sake these are my comparisons.

A few weeks ago I was living in Malito (Calabria) with my bel ragazzo. In a matter of days we had sorted my residency, codice fiscale, tessera sanitaria, opened a bank account and pretty much got everything done to make me 100% 'Italian.' In this respect 'things' in Italy work well (wink wink, nudge nudge) as with my residency we did not have to bother about the carabinieri or anyone coming to check that I live there.

Visiting the local doctor was not so easy.

Bel ragazzo and I went to the village doctor so I could get a simple pill prescription. We asked the doctor, explaining that I would soon be leaving the village, and he wrote out a prescription muttering that it was only for one month. I kept giving my bel ragazzo concerned and angry looks but we left the doctors thinking perhaps he meant I could get one month at a time from the chemist. So feeling a little unsure we trot off to the chemist, who takes the prescription and gives me one months worth before trying to send us on our way. I asked her if I could buy some more months but she looked at me like I was a drug addict whilst saying no! My poor bel ragazzo is a boy and does not know much about 'female' things so was bombarded by me asking a million questions which he could not answer. Why, I wanted to know, would the chemist only give me one month? In Australia I can get up to one year if I want, and in London too! We called a cousin who works at another chemist and explained that the process is normally to get only one month as the prescription is free. Each month you are meant to go back to the village doctor who will write another prescription. He offered to try and get us some more 'on the sly' however we had no time as I was leaving Malito in a matter of days.

A few days later...and angrier we went to visit the chemist in the village. We explained the situation and he too said that it is one month with one prescription, but here - he said handing me a pack - did I want another month? He said that he did not mind if my bel ragazzo came in every now and then if I needed an extra month or two... He also suggested that if bel ragazzo was in Rome with me the fratello or la mamma could come and pick up the odd month. I was outraged! Ok, so this chemist was nice and willing to do the odd month without a prescription but that was not the point. Bel ragazzo suggested that il fratello or la mamma could even go to the village doctor once a month and ask for a prescription for me. They could then get the pills and put them on the bus that goes straight to Rome and I could meet the bus every month at Tiburtina and get the stuff!

My god - you would think I was trying to get a kilo of heroin by the sounds of it. All I wanted was the stupid pill!

I was a little emotional by this stage, randomly crying as I did not understand how things worked, so poor bel ragazzo took me once again to the doctor and we begged for there to be a different option. We told him I would pay for the stupid prescription - I did not care how much it cost - but that it was impossible for me, or someone to come once a month to visit him. In the end he must have seen the tears of desperation in my eyes as he wrote us a 'white prescription.' This is literally a scrap of white paper with the name of the pill written on it and his signature. He told us this should get me a month, or two, or three or four depening if I can find a nice chemist in Rome...

Please oh please if ANYONE reading this can offer me some advice then please let me know. I am one month in and dreading my visit to a chemist as what happens if they only let me buy one month. How embaressing if the fratello or the mamma (who is very religious too may I point out) have to go and get birth control for me! Bel ragazzo cannot go as next week he will be here with me in Rome :)


Sara, Ms Adventures in Italy said...

Ciao Leanne - yes, it's usually 1 month at a time...this drove me crazy, too.

You should be able to use the same prescription, though, and then just fill it every month...keep trying all the nice chemists there in Rome!

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

My experience? I got a prescription once from my doctor (gynecologist) a couple years ago and haven't had to get one again (although I have been to the doctor since then). I took that slip to the pharmacy in the village, and he, too, gives me one month at a time, although I've never asked for more. But I pay 11 euros a month! I think I need to change pills!

I'm sorry that I don't really have any advice, though. Is it possible to go to a doctor in Rome just for the prescription?

I can tell you that in the US I could never get more than 3 months at a time even with a prescription that was good for the year; that was about what insurance would cover in a given period. Can't imagine what the issue is here though.

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Thanks Sara - I hope that the white prescription will let me get a month at a time...only time will tell.

Thanks too Michelle - 11 euros - you must be on a flash pill as I think I'll have to pay about 4 for mine.

Kataroma said...

When I first came to Rome I got a "white" prescription (although I didn't know what it was) and marched to a nearby chemist and demanded 6 months worth of pills. The chemist gave it to me no problems and then handed back the prescription. I just kept doing this every 6 months until one day I went to a different chemist who angrily confiscated my pill prescription and lectured me about how I was breaking the law. I then noticed that he was wearing one of those wooden cross things round his neck and had Padre Pio prominently displayed. I was soooo angry.

I wonder if it's the Catholic thing which forces us to go every month to get a new prescription. The entire thing is ridiculous. Who has time to trek to the doctor and then the chemist every month?

Now that I'm pregnant it's even worse. Don't the people who make the laws about these things realise that most women work these days and not everyone has nonni just waiting to run errands for them. Ugh.