Food for Thought: Access To Healthcare in Italy, the USA, and South Africa
Written by Aura’s House Intern, Elise Cevetello:
I have been living in Italy for the past three years and although I knew what “socialized medicine” was, I didn’t really understand it until I experienced it for myself.
Several weeks ago I was thrown from a galloping horse. I landed smack on my head and unfortunately, had not been wearing a helmet. Needless to say, a trip to the emergency room was warranted. I spent over six hours lying on a stiff board wearing a neck brace that was so large on me that it covered my mouth and brushed the end of my nose. I was wheeled from room to crowded room. Half the time the nurses would lose track of where they had last stuck me. I was examined in the hallway on more than one occasion, and if not for an extremely loud and persistent friend I would have been kept overnight simply because the doctors were too busy with other patients to officially discharge me.
That said, I was also given a CAT scan (CT) and the peace of mind that my brain wasn’t leaking blood at no monetary cost to me. That was something that if I had needed to pay out of pocket for as a student with little money, I would not have been able to afford. So yes, I spent close to seven hours trying to get a procedure done that could have taken five minutes. However the point is that I did get the procedure instead of spending a sleepless night pacing my apartment in a state of panic that I could drop dead at any moment.
Being from the United States I have been accustomed to health care that is largely owned and operated by the private sector (government provided programs would include those such as Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans Health Administration). The point is that the price of treatment is extremely high, set that way by the hospitals, doctors and pharmacies. Furthermore, getting insured on one’s own is often extremely difficult especially if you have any sort of preexisting health condition because insurance companies don’t want to cover those who may cost them money which often times are the people that need the coverage the most.
I remember growing up and knowing this boy, Simon who stepped on some broken glass. The cut proceeded to heal over these sharp little pieces after an accident in which he could not go to the hospital because his family did not have insurance. Having health care should not mean sacrificing grocery shopping or other basic needs. In the past Aura’s House has raised funds for projects focusing on public health such as building a community well in India to supporting individual children with dire health needs such as Diego of Colombia.
The reason that I am extending this topic for discussion with you today is because of an article that I read on BBC (published August 12, 2011) entitled South Africa Unveils Universal Healthcare Scheme. The report outlines the South African move toward national health care which will bring reform to both the Private and Public health care sectors over a fourteen-year period. This has brought concerns by those asked to help fund the effort as well as questions by the international community as to how successful this program will be.
Whether South Africa’s efforts will be successful or not will be determined only by time, but the country is moving forward to close a stark gap in unequal health coverage, which brings hope for a better South Africa.
For more information on the topic of Health Care or to take a closer look at my sources, check out Jon Palfreman’s Sick around America, which aired on Frontline (a PBS production) on March 31, 2009 and Sick Around the World, also a Frontline production, aired on April 15, 2008.