Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Adventures in Belgian Healthcare

I've been itchy lately. Really, really itchy.

For that, I have the big, slobbering dog belonging to the previous tenants of our apartment to thank. A dog who, our new neighbors informed us recently, was never outfitted with a flea collar and thus left behind a legacy of fleas (which also bite humans). I realize all of this will be funny one day, but suffice it to say we haven't quite gotten there yet.

To deal with this problem, I've made the acquaintance of a few doctors in Brussels. I've been amazed by some aspects of healthcare here, while disappointed (thanks, Michael Moore) by others. Some high- and lowlights:

Thankful for:
- The Edith Cavell Institute: one of the nicest hospitals I've ever set foot in that's open to the general public. The attached café resembles (but probably serves better food than) Pastis.
- The cost of healthcare: €28 to see a general practitioner; €50 to consult a specialist. Before reimbursement by insurance. (The €50 fee was even reduced to €35 when that was all I could produce in cash. Compare and contrast with the the U.S., where a collections agency would be breathing down my neck for the remainder of my life in pursuit of the difference.)

A little appalled by:
- My French (or the receptionist at Cavell): I showed up thinking I had an appointment with the dermatologist, only to find out I had been booked for the . . . gynecologist. I had to wait another week. (Btw, I've noticed that most people here (and in Europe generally) refer to their doctors without the suffix, i.e., "gyno," "dermo," "kino," etc. Does that make me a psycho?)
- The ER doctor at Parc Leopold. To say he lacked the ability to inspire confidence, or comparing him to Dr. Spaceman on 30 Rock, would be kind. After a 30-second exam he told me, "I think you have la gale. It is evident to me that you do. Take this cream, and if it works, you have la gale. And if it does not, maybe you do not have it." Which would all be sort of fine, except la gale means scabies, I did not have la gale, and he was asking me to bathe in what amounted to a chemical bath despite the obvious uncertainty of his diagnosis.
- The lack of hospital gowns: Not such a big deal, but I was asked to strip down and be examined by a doctor wearing just bra and panties. They looked at me like I was crazy when I asked for a gown.

Apparently, Dr. Windmill was just a warm-up.

1 comment:

Ann said...

I have so much reply to this. Love the photo of Dr. Spacema à la Dexter. The French totally made Annpants take her pants off; at least they locked the door. Here is an email exchange with the mysterious J:

J: sort of consider my scabies like my little babies that I carry with me whereever I go. Meanwhile, this is the nicest hospital I've ever seen. Makes me want to resume weekly allergy shots.

so it is the mysterious j?

J: Oui, oui. Scabies pour maisie - non! Just flea bites. Phew!