Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gettin' Healthy

Finally went to the doctor to get this whole cold/sinus thing sorted out.  I wasn't going to post about this, but my first experience with a healthcare provider in Brussels confronted me with the differences between how it goes down in 'merica and here.

I will list some thoughts for you, but I must preface it all by telling you that I have a British doctor who only serves English-speaking clients, so language was not the issue that it usually would be:

1.  I called the doctor in the morning, and she answered the phone herself!  (Totally caught me off guard!)  She said she was quite busy but could squeeze me that day.  Wow.

2.  She made an appointment with me for 6:10 pm that evening.  In the States, most doctors don't see patients after 4 pm, probably to allow time for the massive back-ups in their schedules due to booking appointments too close together.  I mean, come on... at one time or another, all of us Americans have had to wait at least an hour--sometimes 2--past our appointment time to see the doctor.  It's especially vexing when you are expected back to work after your appointment or you're really not feeling well and need to see a damn doctor!

3.  I told her that I didn't have insurance (a mutuelle) here yet because I am waiting for my visa to come through.  She said that it is a 30 euro fee for an office visit, but that she could give me a discount if I didn't have a mutuelle yet.  The amazingness is twofold:  the office visit only costs around $40 (without insurance!) AND she was willing to discount it!

4.  I arrived to the office that evening, rang the bell, the doctor herself answered (!), and she let me in.  Her practice is in a typical Brussels maison de maitre, which was once a grand old home, and she shares it with her husband, who's also a GP.  The waiting/living room looked like this.  I was seated next to a marble fireplace and the moulding was to die for!:

Not sterile at all.

5.  (Yes, I'm continuing the list.)  There was no check-in desk, no medical assistants, no clipboard with paperwork, no nothing.  You sit down and when the doctor is ready, she opens the door and gets you.  There's no maze of hallways with multiple exam rooms and computer stations and exit signs along the way.  That white door is the doctor's office/exam room.  You go in, you go out.

6.  The exam room is, again, set in this old home, so it's peaceful and cozy--not sterile, but still clean and tidy and all of that.  There was no nurse.  Just me and the doc.  When you're finished, she prints up all of her paperwork/receipts/prescriptions right there, hands them to you, you pay her directly, and you're off.  Simple as that.

7.  I ended up with prescriptions that I took to the pharmacie for all of these (though not all of these are prescription only):

A pretty good haul, hmm?

All in all, it seems to go really smoothly here.  Again, I didn't see a Belgian doctor so language wasn't an issue, but still I got a sense of how different the system is here.  There is less hubbub, if you will.  Fewer layers and people and less rigamarole.  And comparatively, it makes the American system seem so out-of-hand.  Is all of that really necessary?!