Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Day at the Hospital

With my odd and varied history, I have some experience with working in hospitals. Having been a patient in many of them as well, I know them from the service side and the working side pretty well. With my personal politics, I am morally opposed to Socialized Medicine. There are many anecdotal evidences the Political Right and the Libertarians point to in order to show Socialized Medicine does not work. With the Libertarians I agree, but only in philosophy... no longer in simply by examples.

When something works, it simply works despite the moral or political motivations behind it. A well made gun works no matter how you use it, for hunting or self defense, or for intimidation or murder. Taiwan seems to have a system that works fairly well at the moment regardless of how ones views socialism. However, the Westerner might have some cultural problems with it.

Last month I went to my local doctor for something pretty minor. In Taiwan you make no appointment, you just drop in. Typically, you have no more than 10 minutes to an hour wait... much better than most Stateside doctor’s offices even WITH an appointment. The first time we went to the doctor here, Sandy had the flu and we did not have our nation health cards yet. The receptionist told us that it would be “very” expensive without the card, but that we could bring the card in later and get a refund. The total price for the visit without the card? $10us. We got $9us back later.

Anyhow, my little checkup last week turned up some lab problems, so the doctor gave me a referral to a Urologist. Unlike the states, He just hands me a letter and I get to choose where to take it.

I chose E-Da Hospital. It is clean and new and has some good english speaking doctors. I walked up to the info desk with my referral letter and a nice volunteer (of which there are dozens throughout the hospital) guided me to the Urology Department. There I just take a number and wait for the first urologist available. Soon I was consulting with a Doctor Lim. He gave me a dozen receipts, numbered in order. I was to take these to the different departments and get labs done. One receipt got my labs done; one got my x-rays; the next my ultra sound; the next my EKG; so on and so on. It is up to ME to find these places, to get the work done, and then to go on to the next one.

Some cultural troubles for an American were [1] in X-ray, I was to disrobe and put on a gown. No gown fit well. Typical. But then I was to walk down a busy and public hallway to wait in front of the X-ray room door, in the hall, until the next radiology tech was available. Kind of embarrassing. But, hey, everyone there was doing it. Then [2] if the doctor wanted to give me an injection, I have to go get the med for him. I take a receipt down to the pharmacy and get my med. Most of the time, I can just go around the corner to Chemotherapy and the nurse there will give the injection.

After all this... I went back to the Doctor’s waiting room thinking it would be a while for him to get the results and review them. I was in a chair 2 minutes when the nurse noticed me and flagged me to come in. The doctor had ALL my labs, x-rays and results there with him on multiple computer screens, complete with radiologist and consulting doctor’s findings. Start of process to this step, one hour.

It was decided that I had a 5mm kidney stone! Ouch. So it was off to the sonic zapper to try and shatter the invading irritation. After 30 minutes of being hit with an invisible hammer, I was done. The let me rest there a while to make sure I was okay, and then an hour later I was let loose with a referral to come back in a week for further tests and x-rays.

So, from cold call - seeing the doctor for the first time, to diagnosis, advanced treatment, to prescriptions and on my way home was a total of 6 hour. That includes an hour of rest in the doctor’s office with a nice lounge music set piped in through cordless headphones.

Cultural trouble [3] is: though it is speedy and convenient, some westerners might think it is TOO speedy and convenient. I was being seen, moving rooms, looking for rooms, getting labs drawn, and getting invasive treatment all in the short time span of the day. I like that! But I can see that some people want time to absorb it all. Westerners are more used to a doctor making a diagnosis and then scheduling a day later (perhaps much later) for a procedure. They like time to think. Not here. The plan here is to get it done now, after all, you are HERE now.

The doctors and nurses were all quite helpful and concerned. The doctor listened to all my signs and symptoms. He personally would show up at labs and treatments to make sure I was okay and understood what was going on.

The total price with a national health card? $10us. Without that card would have cost me a whopping $75us. No Kidding.

Now, despite my moral opposition to stealing money from people (taxation) under penalty for non-compliance (which most laws call extortion)... I have to admit I was impressed. I have been billed tens of thousands of dollars for similar tests, consultations, and treatments in the USA and not had NEAR a quick and human a response as this.

Historically, socialized medicine falls apart everywhere it has been done. The nature of red tape enters in and human touches turn to flow chart medicine. Some of that is evident now in the over-worked general practitioners in the cities that may see well over 100 patients a day in their office. But for now, Taiwan is doing an interesting job of it.

No comments: