Italy’s health minister: A new health care card would make my life hell

Sicily – Italy’s health minister reacted angrily Thursday to a proposal floated by a union leader for a health care access card for the country that includes social services – a card never before distributed on Italian soil.

Cardholder cards would be allowed access to a network of “social services,” labor protections, child-care, culture and culture-related services that are usually maintained only by government.

A leader of the Union of Health Professionals and Chief Health Care Workers of Sicily, speaking to reporters Wednesday, said the country lacked the money to fund all those services.

“It’s up to the state to defend its citizens,” he said. “We can’t let the nation be left on its own. The state has to enforce laws to guarantee access to all needed services.”

He did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. A member of the union’s central leadership did not respond to a request for comment Thursday either. But protesters were already gathering in Sicily’s capital.

The idea has drawn stern rebuke from Italy’s regional health minister, who responded angrily in a newspaper interview Thursday.

“The proposal, drafted by the Lavoro and Rapitali [transport unions] wants to oblige us to delegate to ourselves unspeakable responsibilities for which we do not have the finances,” said Paolo Siriani.

Siriani said the proposal “goes completely against all that we owe to our fellow citizens.”

Siriani is no political novice. A former career Communist, he is now the health minister of Sicily. In that capacity, he is in charge of delivering universal health care.

In his strongly worded statement, Siriani accused the unions of stirring up the issue to draw attention away from Sicily’s financial crisis and his own failures.

“I can’t accept Lavoro’s (and Rapitali’s) fascist-like initiative which could lead to divisive attacks,” Siriani said. “No one speaks of our health care system as long as we have not fulfilled our responsibilities.”

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