Anyone coming to Italy can’t help but notice the big green illuminated crosses on pretty much every corner and lining every street. No, these are not the modern update of the little madonnas which adorn almost every palazzo in Italy. They are the bright green Farmacia signs, and, judging by the crowds going in and out, you’d think they were giving away free money inside.
Italians love their pharmacies, and pharmacists hold a privileged place in society as second only to the Holy Father. Although they dispense drugs, they are actually highly trained in what they dispense. The pharmacies here are not unlike those depicted in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, where the pharmacist was your friend – and, it’s him or her who would take the fall on a faulty prescription. They know their clients (and their ailments) by name, and can help you through any sort of malady.
But the thing that is most endearing about the healthcare system, is the role that the doctors play in all this. Not only can they divine your ailment, they are nothing short of soothsayers in the great healthcare realm. Call anyone this winter season, and you’re almost always met with, “Giovanni Rossi is not in – he’s sick – and will be out for 9 days.” And, while visions of a bubonic plague start to come to mind, you discover it’s simply the prognosis for sick leave that doctors confer on their patients.
Bronchitis? Two weeks minimum. A fever? Four days. Talk about the power of suggestion.
I recall the days when we all tried to stay the least amount of time out of the office; lest we use up our sick days, get sidetracked, or even lose out on choice projects. The irony here is that the U.S. operates on the reverse system which says, ‘Heart Attack? 2.6 days. Pneumonia? 4 days (including weekends). Giving birth? 3 days.
In a country which doesn’t have set sick days, you don’t need to keep track. Based on your prescription, your pharmacist will know how long you’ll be bedridden.