Vincenzo Poliseno, 44, attacked 53-year-old Paola Labriola on Wednesday morning with a 12-centimetre kitchen knife, stabbing her 28 times.
Labriola was killed by the drug addict after he demanded money from her, La Repubblica reported.
Colleagues raised the alarm and the doctor’s husband and emergency services arrived immediately, but were unable to save her. Poliseno was promptly arrested, the newspaper said.
The murder was described as an “appalling crime” by Nichi Vendola, the president of the Puglia region and leader of the Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) party.
City Mayor Michele Emiliano said Labriola is “a martyr of the city of Bari” and ordered the police to keep watch over the clinic to ensure that it can remain open.
But the move will do little to comfort other doctors at the clinic who had previously been denied a security guard as there wasn’t enough money, La Repubblica said.
Antonella Morga, a friend of the victim and secretary of the union Fp-Cgil, said “Working conditions in the local public services are disastrous. Improvements must be made to safeguard workers, because we’re always in the trenches”. She added that before Labriola was murdered, the mother of three had talked about moving clinics.
Raffaele Martino, in charge of the clinic, said that he too had been stabbed by a patient. “Episodes like this happen often. We are in the front lines and have absolutely no defence.”