Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sick in Vienna

Being sick in another country is not a lot of fun.  Think about what you would do when you're sick.  Curl up in bed and watch lots of TV and movies.  Unfortunately, most channels here are in German and if I only watch news stations like CNN, BBC, and CNBC, I'll want to slash my wrists after a couple of days.

This cold started sometime over the weekend, perhaps Saturday but it wasn't until Sunday that I felt all the symptoms:  major sinus congestion with lots of nose blowing, body aches and pains, a sore throat and finally some diarrhea. 

Luckily Rachel had previously scouted out a doctor in the neighborhood because it's common practice for people to go see the doctor from day one of an illness.  In fact, the FrauDirektor (Principal) at my school asked me to get a doctor's note.

At least now I am able to share with my readers my experience of the health care system in another country.

The first thing readers should realize is one does not call in advance and make an appointment.  When Rachel went, she wrote down the doctor's hours.  For example, the placard on the side of the apartment building in which the doctor's office is announced Monday's consultation hours from 9-12.  I arrived exactly at 9 am to beat the rush.  It had been my experience in Hungary that oftentimes, in these universal coverage systems, the halls of the hospitals would be lined with the elderly, many of whom only suffer from loneliness.  So, expecting a large number of geriatric patients, I got there at 9.

As mentioned previously, this doctor's office is not in a hospital or health care clinic.  Instead, her offices occupy one (or more) apartments in an apartment building.  After being buzzed in and locating her office (Apartment #6), I approached the receptionist.  Here I gave my normal opening lines:  ich bin auslander, ich spreche ein bisschon Deutsch, ich spreche Englisch.  (which translates as, "I'm a foreigner, I speak a little German, I speak English)

Luckily the receptionist spoke English well enough.  The first thing she wanted to see was my Ecard (see picture).  The Ecard is your key into the universal health system here.  It was important to find a job which paid into the system thereby offering me an Ecard.  The Ecard is a green credit card looking thing with a gold computer chip at one end.  Presumably, all future doctor and hospital visits will start with me presenting my Ecard.  After handing over my Ecard, I answered the normal first time questions (although I wasn't given a long paper questionnaire to fill out detailing my past medical history); such as, what's your address?  what's your phone number?

Then I sat in the waiting room and waited.  Rachel said it took her about an hour to see the doctor.  I think it took me in the environ of 30-40 minutes.  I was reading my Kindle so I didn't really notice the time.

Finally, I was called in to see the doctor.  Her office seemed similar to most I'd seen in the US.  There was a long bed with the large toilet paper roll on the padding as a sanitary precaution.  She also had a desk with the computer at which she sat and she motioned for me to sit across from her in one of two chairs.  I gave my "I'm a foreigner" spiel.  Then I mentioned my wife had been to see her and she made the connection that we were referred from our landlady (always good to get referrals from friends, colleagues, acquaintances in another country).

She asked me what was wrong and, as I had spent some time before the visit translating my symptoms using Google translate, I read from the below script:

i am sick
Ich bin krank
stuffy nose
Ich habe eine verstopfte Nase
body aches
Ich habe Gliederschmerzen
my throat hurts
meine Kehle (Hals) schmerzt
when I go to the toilet, I have diarrhea
wenn ich auf die Toilette gehen, habe ich ein wenig (Durchfall) diarrehea
the Principal told me I need a note
die fraudirektor hat gesagt ich brauche eine Notiz (Note)
I work in an elementary school

Ich arbeite in einer GrundSchule

Afterwards, she asked me to take off my shirt and, with her stethoscope, checked my back and chest as I inhaled & exhaled deeply.  Then she had me lie down, checked my mouth (say "AHHHHH!"), my blood pressure, and my abdomen (since I mentioned I had diarrhea).

She told me since this started last Saturday, I would probably need a week to get over it and so gave me a note for the whole week!  However, as Wednesday is a national holiday, I'm hoping to feel well enough to return to work on Thursday.

Then we talked about medicine.  I had previously researched online and found what I used in the States.  I downloaded a picture of Vick's Nyquil along with the active ingredients and presented these to the doctor.  She was able to recognize the underlying medications and she prescribed me something called Neocitran; basically it's a hot drink made by boiling water and mixing with the contents of one package.  She said this and rest was all I needed. I thanked her, shook her hand (I hope she washed her hands afterwards) and said my goodbyes.

Then I went to the pharmacy.  The pharmacist took my prescription, filled it, asked if I understood the dosing and how to use the medicine.  Then I paid my 8.40 Euros for the medicine and left.

Not factoring in that a portion of my paychecks goes towards paying for health care, I did not have to pay anything at the doctor's office (no copay).  The only out of pocket costs were for the medicine at 8.40 Euros.

And that was my experience visiting the doctor and picking up a prescription under the universal health care system.

1 comment:

  1. Nice thorough account of your experience! I'm always curious about what it's like to get health care at another country. Also I think it's funny that the translation for I'm sick is Ich bin krank.