Oh Doctor, Doctor!

Right, so after avoiding the trip to the local doctor for the last 7 months I finally was left with little choice! The nasty little European viruses decided it was time to take me down… Hook, line and sinker!

My excursion into the medical world in Germany started.

One thing for certain, there are a lot of doctors here. A lot. I walk past around 5 medical practices every morning on my way to the train station… and my walk is only 10 minutes! Given, not all of them are GP’s, there are a couple of homeopaths, internists and therapists. So imagine my chagrin at having to choose one to go to! Choices, choices!

Urgency creates solutions and with a quick whatsapp to a new friend I hoped to have found a doctor not too far from where I stayed.

Monday morning I ventured out of my bed to go find the doctor. A trek through half my neighborhood and I found the practice. A Plaque on the door was the only indication there was a practice. Inside it was packed. I gave them my medical aid card and had to fill out some forms. Well so far its pretty much the same, except…

I am used to my family doctor’s room, its small, the receptionist / assistant chats away while you wait. Here there are 3 or 4 ‘doctor’s helpers’ running around. Stressed. Once I handed in my forms and got my Medical Aid card back, I was shooed back into the waiting room. Stacks of the latest magazines were sitting on the table, covered in magazine-rental-for-doctor’s-rooms marketing material. The glass door opens… ‘Mr so and so’, Mr So-and-So follows the assistant through the glass door into the passageway and disappears. There are a lot of people here, I am expecting this to last at least a couple of hours… 20 Minutes later I was called! Surprised I followed the ‘doctor’s helper’ into what was called a diagnostics room. It has a bed, and a table with a computer and a chair. Impersonal. Down the passage there are a lot of different rooms, an EKG room, a PRIVATE room, a door with some weird scribbles on it… In the diagnostics room I took a seat next to the empty table.

The doctor rushed in. ‘How can I help you?’ A little taken off guard, I explained my symptoms. She took a seat and without looking at me twice she started typing. Asked me a question and continued typing away. There was little personal connection. She wanted to listen to my chest so she asked me to stand up, and standing with my shirt tucked up she listened to my breath… Apparently this is done here awkwardly standing up, not sitting on a chair or examination bed. She went back to her computer and continued typing. With a quick glance to me she advised me I have a virus infection, booked me off for the week and sent me home with a script.

The doctors here don’t scribble a script in their unreadable handwriting on their pad, you go to the reception, where you get handed a pink or green slip – printed with the medicine you need to get. One slip for each medication. There is no way the pharmacist will be able to not decipher the handwriting.

All in all, my session with the doctor took less than 15 minutes. There was very little inquiries into what my history is, just checking what medication I am on.

Its been 3 weeks, and my cough is not gone. Its probably a result of the constantly changing weather – cold, warmer, wet, cold, warmer, wet… I feel like I am on a merry-go-round… Concerned I took time off work and went back – this time the whole thing took less than 5 minutes. I was ‘dumped’ in the EKG room, the doctor came running in, listened to my chest. Told me its normal. While asking my name she ran out. At least she prescribed some medication.

I am disappointed. And am overcome with firstly a immense appreciation for our doctors in South Africa that, lets be honest, mostly take their time to properly diagnose you. Apparently this is normal here, I mentioned to a friend how strange I found the experience… and she starts laughing when I mentioned the minimum of 20 minutes I used to get in SA. Now I am reduced to a warm body in a waiting room, ready to be factorised like in a sausage making machine. At the moment I am weighing my options of continuing to search for a new doctor, or giving up. I will see.

I have come up with a plan of action for now though – avoid doctors wherever possible, i.e. take care of myself so that I don’t have to endure it again. Missing Cape Town is quite intense when one is not feeling well! 🙂