EMERGENCY’s Outpatient Clinics are staffed by volunteer medical personnel able to issue regional prescriptions to prescribe drugs and specialist examinations to be carried out in the national healthcare system. Our cultural mediators provide an essential service, informing patients of their rights, helping them to access services offered by the national healthcare system and accompanying them to medical examinations or check-ups at public hospitals to help them with any difficulty or barrier they may encounter. The aim of the Outpatient Clinics in Italy is to ensure that the most vulnerable people don’t fall into the cracks of the system but fully enjoy the rights that are guaranteed to them by the law.
In 2006 EMERGENCY opened an Outpatient Clinic in Palermo after the Palermo Provincial Health Authority provided and renovated an existing facility. The idea behind the creation of the Palermo outpatient clinic was to offer basic and specialist medical care to migrants and other vulnerable groups, both independently and in collaboration with the local health authority.
Based on this experience, in December 2010, we opened a second Outpatient Clinic in Marghera. Outpatients treated at the clinic are migrants coming mainly from Eastern Europe, Senegal and Bangladesh living in the region but also other vulnerable people. During the course of 2014, we launched a project in collaboration with other organisations to offer homeless patients of the Clinic a protected shelter for convalescence after discharge from hospital.
In 2013, in collaboration with other associations we opened an Outpatient Clinic in Polistena, in the province of Reggio Calabria. The Clinic is located in a building confiscated from mafia and assigned to become a cultural centre against organised crime. Most of the patients of the Clinic are migrant workers suffering from illnesses deriving from the harsh living and working conditions they are forced into. These include muscular-skeletal problems, dermatitis and gastrointestinal illnesses.
In March 2015 we opened an Outpatient Clinic in Castel Volturno. The high majority of patients at the Clinic are migrant workers in the construction and agriculture sectors, most of them living in conditions of extreme exploitation in an environment characterized by the presence of well-rooted organised crime. The illnesses we come across more frequently, such as infections of the skin and airways, muscular-skeletal problems, are often the direct consequence of the unhealthy living conditions in which our patients are forced into: overcrowding, lack of toilet facilities, poor electricity supplies. Problems of high blood pressure due to poor diet are also widespread, along with the lack of means to prevent this issues appropriately. Alongside the medical treatment, our cultural mediators are always on hand in Castel Volturno to help with getting access to medical care, registering with the national health service and choosing a GP.
Also in 2015, we opened an Outpatient Clinic in Naples where our staff offers free basic healthcare services and socio-medical counselling to people in need. Our doctors and nurses are also available for injections, assessment of vital health indicators, monitoring of therapy, and for medications. Our cultural mediators help those who currently have no access to the national healthcare system.
In order to overcome the issues preventing individuals from receiving adequate medical treatment, such as language barriers, inadequate knowledge of one’s rights or of the national healthcare system, in 2012 we opened an Information Desk for Socio-medical Assistance in Sassari. Here, cultural mediators inform patients about their rights, deal with the paperwork to obtain the documents necessary to guarantee access to the public healthcare system to foreigners, accompany them during check-ups or examinations in public facilities and monitor the area to identify pockets of particular hardship or places where rights are being denied.