Public hospitals in Italy
All Italian cities and large towns have at least one clinic (clinica) or hospital (ospedale), indicated by the international sign of a white ‘H’ on a blue background. Public hospitals are listed in the yellow pages under Ospedali and private hospitals under Case di cura private.
There’s a big difference between public and private hospital facilities in Italy, although it’s generally considered that there’s little difference between the qualities of medical treatment (e.g. surgery).
A number of private clinics have agreements with regional health authorities and provide beds that can be used by national health patients, although there may be long waiting lists. Public hospitals have a 24-hour accident and emergency (casualty) department (pronto soccorso).
Except in emergencies, you may be admitted or referred to a hospital or clinic for treatment only after consultation with a doctor. Normally you’re admitted to a hospital in your own province, unless specialist surgery or treatment is unavailable there. In some regions, if a hospital cannot offer treatment within a reasonable period, patients may be referred to a private clinic without having to pay extra fees.
National Health Service
Under the National Health Service, you can request that an operation be performed in a hospital in another city, although the best-equipped hospitals in the north of Italy often have long waiting lists. In an emergency outside your own city or province, you will obviously be treated in a local hospital.
If you aren’t covered by the National Health Service, you must pay before you receive any treatment, irrespective of whether you have private health insurance, although some foreign insurance companies have arrangements with certain hospitals and pay bills directly.
If you’re discharged from hospital and don’t have transport to get home, you can usually pay for an ambulance to take you. Volunteer ambulance services such as the Red Cross (Croce Rossa) provide non-urgent ambulance transport services, for which a list of fees is usually available in hospitals.