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Argentinian Doctors Fill Vacuum for Health Care in Sicily

Health Care in Sicily
In the small village of Mussomeli, Sicily, the lack of economic opportunities has prompted many inhabitants to move to larger cities. Rapid depopulation has made this village a ghost of its previous self, with crumbling buildings and a high unemployment rate. Most importantly, the lack of health care professionals has created a vacuum in the local village hospital, creating problems with health care in Sicily.

Poverty in Sicily

In 1968, an earthquake occurred across Sicily called the Belice earthquake. Measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale, this earthquake killed hundreds and left around 100,000 people homeless. The damage that the earthquake caused was so great that it was cheaper for many inhabitants to move elsewhere with the insurance money than to stay and rebuild.

Although the government tried to reconstruct the ravaged villages, grocery stores, workshops, farmhouses and hospitals remained unbuilt, significantly impacting health care in Sicily.

Thus began the exodus in Sicily that would continue for decades. As the old inhabitants of Sicilian villages relocated to escape the wreckage, the economy of southern Italy would continue to recess. Across the country, young people would leave rural towns for larger cities and better opportunities. Depopulation occurred across Sicily and some areas would see up to a 30% decrease since the 1950s, with a total of more than 1 million inhabitants moving away from southern Italy.

Later on, other reasons would contribute to the general poverty in Sicily, including the long and complicated history and influence of the Mafia, a lack of economic opportunities other than agriculture, issues of health care in Sicily and unemployment rates reaching up to 18.7%, one of the highest unemployment rates in all of Italy.

One-Euro Houses Bring Doctors

Faced with an economic recession and health care emergencies, the government of this Sicilian town Mussomeli began selling dilapidated houses for €1 only. Hoping for foreign investment at first, what they got in turn was much more than they ever imagined.

Argentinian doctors with Italian roots have begun settling in Mussomeli, not only to fill the vacancy for health care professionals but also to help revitalize the village. Many of these families had migrated from Mussomeli in the 1900s and now have the opportunity not only to return home but also to accept a career change.

For example, Leonardo Roldan, who is an ER surgeon, had two goals in his move to Mussomeli. “I’m still quite young, 49, so it’s more than just a professional shift in my career: It’s the choice of leading a different life,” he told CNN in an interview.

To Roldan, a life in Mussomeli means the chance to take things slowly and enjoy a change in pace. According to him, “Mussomeli is a total break from my everyday reality. It’s another world: quiet, peaceful, where locals lead a simple lifestyle. I have come to realize that we should all, at some point in our lives, slow down and take it easy, take more time to savor things of quality” CNN reported. Furthermore, four of Roldan’s great-grandparents had migrated to Argentina from Italy. Moving here would allow Roldan to make a new connection with his roots.

The Future

Now, Mussomeli’s local village hospital and the university of Rosario located in Argentina have struck a partnership. Many Argentinian doctors are participating in this partnership, due to the cheap prices of the one-euro houses and the other opportunities that village life could offer.

According to the mayor of Mussomeli, Guiseppe Catania, “soon we will have new Argentinian doctors who speak fluent Italian,” and the emergency vacancies in health care in Sicily and its villages just might resolve.

– Emilie Zhang
Photo: Flickr