Although the right to health is recognised in Italian law, migrants, refugees and disadvantaged individuals often can’t access medical treatment because of a lack of knowledge of their rights, linguistic barriers, and difficulties in finding their way within a complex healthcare system. Additionally, due to a climate of widespread fear and growing racism migrants and refugees often do not turn to public facilities for fear of being reported to the police or other local authorities. On top of this, the economic crisis and cuts to public healthcare are threatening the fundamental rights of increasing numbers of people.
For these reasons we started working in Italy, and since 2005 EMERGENCY has provided more than 165,000 free-of-charge consultations to individuals who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to access medical treatment.
In 2005 EMERGENCY started providing medical assistance in prisons, offering medical care to migrants and other vulnerable individuals.
In 2006 EMERGENCY opened an Outpatient Clinic in Palermo, Sicily, to guarantee free healthcare to migrants – with or without residence permits – and to any other person in need. Our Programme in Italy was then expanded in December 2010 with the Outpatient Clinic in Marghera, near Venice; in July 2013 with the Polistena Clinic, Calabria; and in March 2015 with the Castel Volturno Clinic, Campania.
An essential part of our healthcare programs in Italy are our cultural mediators who offer socio-medical assistance to patients in order to help them overcome the barriers that prevent them receiving appropriate care.
Additionally, in 2011 EMERGENCY set up 5 mobile clinics in order to guarantee timely medical assistance where it’s needed the most.
A team of EMERGENCY doctors and cultural mediators has been working in Siracusa (Sicily) since summer 2013 to guarantee basic healthcare to the migrants who are landing ashore.In 2014, we launched three important new projects: prevention and health education for sex workers in the Caserta area, a new mobile outpatient clinic and a project for unaccompanied minors in Sicily. In April 2014 EMERGENCY started a social support project focusing on health education and prevention for sex workers around the city of Caserta (Campania) and another one for unaccompanied minors in Sicily.
Additionally, we provided medical care to the homeless in the aftermath of an earthquake in the Emilia Romagna region, we’ve opened information desks offering socio-medical assistance so that the sick could learn about their rights and request assistance from public services so that the right to healthcare is a reality and not just a declaration of intent.
The clinics are staffed by volunteer medical staff, able to issue regional prescriptions to prescribe drugs and specialist examinations to be carried out in the national healthcare system.