Privatising Italian Healthcare

Her elbow had been smashed. Bike wheels caught in a tram track, she’d been catapulted into the air, landing on her left arm, in front of Porta Nuova, Turin’s main train station. Within seconds, pedestrians  had dragged her onto the sidewalk, and put her in a cab. When she finally came to, she was in the emergency room at the city’s best hospital.

The experience of being rescued like that was new. The person in question, an American, working for a local technology firm, had never quite gone through anything like that. The sense of responsibility and kindness displayed by anonymous passersby was shocking. Not to the people who who took care of her, though. Attribute to local custom, or simply kindness. Still, it was just a reflex.

Little did the gesture prepare her, though, for the healthcare experience she was about to get. The first of six months worth of weekly visits to the hospital, from the surgery to the physical therapy, the care she received was as conscientious and unselfconscious as what she’d received on the street. Back in the US, the same treatment would have been far more brusque and bureaucratic. It also would have cost a fortune. Sixty thousand dollars, likely, though her four hundred dollar a month health insurance policy would have paid for most of it.

Upon her final visit, she was asked to make a thirty Euro payment. That was it. For care from US-trained surgeons, too. (One of her doctors had recently completed his degree at an Ivy League school.) A year following her treatment, the former patient in question still gets follow-up correspondence, querying her about how her elbow has healed, as well as confirming her expenses.

Given the healthcare debate in the United States, European stories like these are just the sort that public health advocates point to, when highlighting how awful private healthcare can be in America. Despite this, ample pressures are being exerted, throughout the EU, to privatise health services, along American lines, not surprising, as has been reported, at the initiative of US healthcare providers.

The following flyer translation dramatizes the Italian version of this effort. Spurred on by budget cuts, and austerity measures, likely mandated by Brussels, the situation is nothing short of tragic. Particularly given experiences, like those of the American, in Turin.  The hospital in question is situated in Turin’s Vanchiglia neighborhood.

We’ve omitted the name of the American, for reasons of privacy.






The umpteenth blow to our heads, our rights, our lives:

The EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE of (the) PIEMONTE REGION (with resolution n. 6-5519 of 14th March 2013) has decided on the shut-down of MARIA ADELAIDE hospital, the only public medical center in Vanchiglia, in June.

This resolution intends to generate cash, by reducing the essential services of Healthcare and Assistance in a financial and political project requiring that all the real estate properties of the Healthcare system merge in a Real Estate Fund, with investment from private companies, and managed by the Healthcare Federation, together with private corporations.

Plainly-spoken: this is a huge real estate speculation made by the (Piemonte) Region with the endorsement and silence of all political forces, and a wild and final privatization of public healthcare system. For Vanchiglia’s residents, this means that they will no longer have a local public hospital and an excellent  orthopedic center.

Not too bad, we could say. There is still Gardenigo…

The Gardenigo medical center is a private management structure, functioning in every respect like a public healthcare provider, serving a wide user base, like the public healthcare system. 45000 emergency cases handled, excellent service, and the third oncological center in Piemonte.

In recent months, employees of this medical center have been living in a condition of uncertainty about their jobs. Since 2011, the center has experienced great economic difficulties, and imposed salary reductions (on its staff.) Thirteenth months (worth of owed) salaries were half-paid in December, and half at the end of January, and workers are expecting dismissals and a further salary reduction. Moreover, with new management by the infamous Don Gnocchi Foundation, we expect the possibility of (medical services pricing) speculation and wild privatization.

(Public) healthcare and medical centers are an (important) resource, and most of all, a right for citizens. They’re not “bargaining chips”, and cannot be subject to the logic of profit-making, and the market.

Health is not for sale!

And Maria Adelaide, for the local inhabitants, is a common property, primary and essential. It has to be defended tooth and nail.

Dear council members and politicians, dear vultures and speculators, you can be certain: here in Vanchiglia, we will not serve as helpless witnesses to another Valdese case…


We will all be there on Saturday 13th of April at the


Starting at 10am in Lungo Dora Firenze 87 (davanti all’ospedale)


Translated from the Italian by Giulia Pace. Introduction and photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit.

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