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Dr. Luciano Marullo, chief of staff for the cardiology unit at Pineta Grande clinic in Castel Volturno, stands in a private suite in the hospital's cardiology intensive care unit that has been set aside for foreign patients, primarily Americans.
Dr. Luciano Marullo, chief of staff for the cardiology unit at Pineta Grande clinic in Castel Volturno, stands in a private suite in the hospital's cardiology intensive care unit that has been set aside for foreign patients, primarily Americans. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

CASTEL VOLTURNO, Italy — A patient’s comfort can go a long way toward speeding up his recovery. So doctors at an Italian hospital that regularly treats American cardiac patients created a private recovery suite for them in its cardiac intensive care unit.

“Americans are very private people, and our patients feel more comfortable in a suite to themselves,” said Dr. Luciano Marullo, chief of staff for the cardiology unit at Pineta Grande clinic in Castel Volturno, roughly 20 minutes from the support site Navy base and the U.S. hospital there.

“We’ve noticed that when a patient is more comfortable, that can help them heal more rapidly,” said cardiologist Dr. Anna Lerro.

Pineta Grande has a long-standing partnership with the U.S. Naval Hospital in Gricignano, which opened in July 2003. The 20-bed, $42 million community hospital has an emergency room, but no specialized facilities to treat serious trauma cases and no intensive care unit, and no cardiologist on staff.

The nearest American military cardiologist in Europe is at Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany, so Pineta Grande Hospital has been a “critical local tertiary care resource taking care of all U.S. beneficiaries here in Naples,” said Navy Capt. Frank Carlson, head of the Internal Medicine Department at the U.S. Naval Hospital.

The naval hospital include clinics for allergies, audiology, behavioral health, dentistry, family practice, immunization, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, ophthalmology/optometry, orthopedics, pediatrics and surgery.

It also has a counseling and assistance center, educational and developmental intervention services, and military sick call, and offers physical therapy and a travel medicine program.

The Naples area is home to more than 6,000 Americans, including military members, dependents, and contractors.

Pineta Grande’s cardiology department performs 1,500 cardiac catheterizations and 200 bypass operations annually “with uniformly superb results,” Carlson said. The Navy hospital sends about two cardiac patients a month to Pineta Grande for inpatient care, and an average of two patients a week on an outpatient basis, Marullo said.

Pineta Grande is a public hospital under Italy’s national health care system but bills the appropriate parties for care rendered to U.S. members, hospital spokesman Jimmy Hodges said.

Pineta Grande is undergoing massive renovations and expansions, expanding from a 6-bed cardiology unit back in 2001, to a 40-bed unit when renovations are completed, expected in the early part of 2008, Marullo said.

In January, the staff will add a second private suite — though not in the intensive care unit — for non-Italian patients, said Marullo, a cardiologist for 25 years.

The clinic sets aside Tuesday mornings and Friday afternoons to book appointments with American patients, he said.

That ensures the Pienta Grande staff that they’ll have linguists and equipment available, if necessary. The U.S. hospital has linguists on staff who accompany patients.

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