Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Adventure of French Healthcare

I started having problems with my left knee last summer at camp...a little stiffness, some pain, difficulty kneeling. Nothing to really get excited about. But the past 4 weeks, 'nothing' became a big 'something.' When I had to turn down 3 different invitations to celebrate New Year's Eve because the pain and stiffness in that knee made even hobbling around hard, I decided I better do something more than popping ibuprofen and propping up my knee on a pillow. I asked my friend, Greg, for a physician recommendation, and the adventure began. different is healthcare here! First difference: I called the number listed for my new physician. It rang and rang; no answer. Not even that annoying message like you get in the States. You know the one--'if this is an emergency, hang up and dial 911. If you've reached this recording, our office is closed. Push 1 if you need a prescription refill. Push 2 if you have a billing question. Push 3 if you want to make an appointment and maybe someone will call you back.' Perhaps I called the wrong number? Maybe the office wasn't open yet? I tried again. Second difference: the physician himself answered the phone! Where's his receptionist, I wondered? In my very best French, I introduced myself and said I would like to make an appointment with the doctor. He rattled something off in French, then again in English. 'You come this afternoon between 2:30pm and 4:30pm. I'll see you. If you make an appointment, it will be next week." Oh, okay. I called Greg and asked about this. Seems like the doctor has open clinic hours every afternoon. He advised me to get there right at 2:30pm to avoid a long wait. Armed with a book just in case, I arrived at 2:20pm; the waiting area was already full! Third difference: there was no receptionist, no 'take-a-number-and-have-a seat sign. Everyone just seemed to know where their place in line was, so I made a point to look at everyone already there, so I'd know when it was my turn. The fourth difference quickly became evident: there was no paperwork to fill out. I opened my book, began to read, and waited....

Come back tomorrow to read the rest of the story and discover the rest of the differences between American and French healthcare. Did I finally see the doctor? Did he want a copy of an insurance card? Who budged in line and did it cause a problem? Will I need a total knee replacement?

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