Thursday, December 17, 2009

1st Medical Experience

So my ribs have been killing me since the go-kart crash last week. It hurts when I breathe too deep, cough, sneeze, laugh or move around too much. After a week the pain didn't decrease so I decided to see a doctor just to make sure that I didn't have a hairline fracture.

I've only been to Medicover for my initial health screening as required by Czech law. So Tuesday morning I called the clinic at 7:30 AM and was told to come in at 9 AM. The doctor spoke enough English (and some Spanish) to let me know that he didn't think anything was broken. But he wanted me to go to St. Anne's hospital for an x-ray...just to make sure.

The clinic didn't charge me anything and gave me directions to St. Anne's hospital. I was told to go to the information desk and they would direct me where to go. Here's where it starts getting good...

St. Anne's is a state facility and consists of several buildings on a medical campus. Nothing was in English and I had no idea of which building to go to. I tried asking for directions but no one I came across spoke English, German, French or Spanish. When I saw a sign that said "onkologie" I knew I was in the wrong place. I eventually found where I thought I was supposed to be. Wrong. Fortunately, an orderly who only spoke Czech, took sympathy and walked me over to the correct building. He gave my referral slip to the receptionist and told her that I could not speak Czech.

The receptionist came up to me and said "co?" (what?). Great. She was not very friendly but I eventually understood that she wanted my VZP card. She made a photocopy and motioned for me to go have a seat and wait. I noticed that here they don't come out to get the patients. They call your name over a loudspeaker and tell you where to go. Eventually, I heard my name but didn't understand where to go. So in Czech I told the recptionist that I heard my name but didn't know where to go. She got on the phone and then told me to go to door "C". I walked down the hallway and opened door "C". But then the doctor yelled at me in English to get out because there was already a patient in the room. Why the heck do they call you to a room just to wait outside a door?
When I was allowed inside the doctor spoke English but he was an ass! He examined me and asked if I'd had x-rays yet. I guess he didn't get that this was the reason I was there. He told me to go down the hall to radiology and wanted my "stamp". I had no clue what he was talking about. Apparently, I needed to purchase a 30 Kč ticket (~$1.71). It's basically a co-pay tax imposed by the government. The nurse in the room didn't speak English but volunteered to take me to get my x-rays. She asked me for 30 Kč and took care of my ticket for me.

The radiologist took my films and then told me to get dressed and wait in the hallway. The nurse then saw me in the hallway and aksed if I was done. She told me to go back to room C. This time I made sure to stay out of the room until I was called in. The doctor glanced at the films on the computer and said he would need to review them. He told me to go back to the waiting area until I was called back again. He was still an ass but I think that the nurse must have said something to him.

While waiting in the lobby, the doctor called me back but this time it was in English. All of a sudden...the doctor was nice and professional. He told me what I already knew. Nothing is broken but it would hurt for the next few weeks. I asked him where I needed to go now and the doctor told me to go home. I wanted to know where to go to pay for the hospital visit. He just laughed and told me that I didn't have to pay anything other than my 30 Kč tax because I have insurance. I thanked him and left. But I made sure to thank the nurse before I left.
So my first Czech medical experience cost me $1.71 and 4 hours. I could not believe how inexpensive it was. I'm sure the system here works great if you speak Czech. One of my Czech colleagues also hurt his ribs while go-karting. The difference being that he went to the emergency room on Sunday night. He had to pay 90 Kč for the ER visit but was done with everything in only 30 minutes.

This whole experience was really humbling. My Czech is slowly improving but Tuesday was incredibly frustrating. I felt helpless and stupid because I didn't know what was going on. Plus being in pain didn't help. I really need to improve my Czech.

Here's what I found out...
There is a deductible of 30 Kč for visits to the doctor. There is another deductible of 30 Kč for prescriptions.

There is a 60 Kč deductible for in-patient hospital treatment. There is a 90 Kč deductible for an after-hours visit to the emergency room.

Update 2017:  The 30 Kč co-pay for visiting the doctor was done away with years ago.  

1 comment:

  1. I loved this post. It really brings home what it feels like to be a stranger in a strange land. It made me a better American to have experienced being a foreigner somewhere else. Kinder, gentler, nicer.