We are sick around here. I guess I knew it was bad when breathing in and out I could hear a whistling noise but it took my boss telling me I wasn't allowed in to meetings Tuesday to finally send me home to bed! When E had ear pain I decided to go in to the doctor here in town. Last week when we first had colds and one kid had a fever, I went to our nice neighbor next door to ask about a dr recommendation. It was a nice excuse to have a chat and this week I was extra thankful to know where to go. Coming from the US I'm used to massive operations for doctor visits. There are many physicians and PA's and nurse practitioners all in one practice. It's hard to find a family practice so you all go to different doctors. You go and check in and fill out a bunch of paperwork, then are called back after waiting usually a good hour. A nurse's assistant takes vital signs and does a preliminary triage note usually in a computer. Then you wait again in one of a hallway full of exam rooms. The dr (or whichever provider you actually get to see that day) comes in finally and goes through the exact same questions and again inputs it in the computer. Then they check ears, nose, lungs, etc before often giving antibiotics or saying it's a virus and to let it run its course. In the States you don't have to have a dr note for school absences unless it's quite long. I rarely took my kids in as I usually let things run their course and could usually tell when they really needed to be seen.
Here however, we have to have dr notes for any absence it seems. They take them for work (our work is a bit different but most people have to have it), the school requires it. We get a few days a year we can just keep them home but I try to use those for what we call "mental health" days-not necessarily actual sick days. Anyway, we've now been twice in 3 days to the dr and I'm pretty amazed at the small-scale personal nature of it. First, you set up your own appointment online. Genius! Then you go in to a small office (usually the first floor of someone's home) and wait in a small room with some chairs and a few magazines. If there are people ahead of you, when the previous patient walks out they go in to the doctor in the order they arrived. When it's our turn to go back the doctor him/her self meets us at the door and greets us. Then the doctor sits at her computer which is on a desk with files and a few medical books on top. She inputs name, birthdate and address and scans our ID card then asks the symptoms (briefly). She then has us step into the next room adjoining which is the exam room. In there is the table, lights, medical supplies, medicines, etc-everything you could need all in the one room. She checks symptoms then prescribes meds. No fuss, no hassle, no extra steps. Just a doctor and the patient. They even make house calls!
Then there's the pharmacy. My pharmacist friend would love the efficiency of it! We had to go to the one on call at night so Ty drove me as I couldn't breathe still. We rang the bell and I told him which prescriptions we had and he said he'd come right down. Then I passed the scripts through the dropbox (think bank deposit type box). He filled 6/7 of them and said to come back in the morning when he'd have the final one. Then he took payment and passed the medicines through the box to me. This all took 10 minutes from when we pushed the buzzer till we drove away. And the price for the doctor and all the meds? Less than what I'd pay for just one dr visit in the US. That's before insurance as here with our private insurance we pay everything up front and submit claims ourselves.
It's really amazing to me that in a place where often we are caught up in so much paperwork and procedure that we make a DMV visit look appealing in the US, that the medical system is so streamlined. It's quick, efficient and good care. We know doctors here who work and they are very well educated. I think perhaps part of the problem with our system back in the US is it has become victim to the consumer society we thrive on there. In order to support a fancy, new, large, entertaining experience in the office they have to see so many patients a day. To fit everyone in so crazily they have to have many staff to keep the assembly line going. Then there's all the insurance ins and outs. That's a whole department needed just for accounting and billing and legal. I know there are drawbacks to social medicine but the thing I think it has going here is it cuts out all the excess unnecessary packaging of the actual medical care. So my kids weren't entertained for our hour wait. We chatted and they played with a cute little friendly girl of 1.5 who was interested in zipping and unzipping and buttoning J's jacket repeatedly. We looked at magazines (not even kid ones) together finding interesting pictures and picking out words in Nederlands that we recognized. I even got to practice a bit of my new vocab as we just studied dr appointments in class last week. Of course, like almost everywhere here, the doctors speak English just fine so communication was easy. But still, I was excited to try anyway. Oh, and the doctors (there are 2 in this practice which is large!) are general practitioners so we will all be going to them for our family's medical needs. I love this! Sometimes I shake my head and talk about how this place is closer to Africa than Western Europe, or how some things are 50-60 years in the past. I'll take medical care that is closer to the old fashioned family doctor who makes house calls with all the benefits of technology and information of the present! It is one area I'm thankful for very much this week!
Now I'm off to hang out with one sick boy...
Carolyn & (sometimes) Ty