Friday, May 12, 2006

How to see a Doctor in Cyprus

Richard was no better this morning. If anything, worse. Perhaps because he ate nothing yesterday, but he could barely get out of bed. While I shan't go into detail, I was pretty sure he had some kind of bladder infection.

So we needed a doctor. I mentally ran through the number of doctors we've used here: (1) an ear/nose/throat doctor for excessive wax in Richard's ears, a couple of times (2) an orthopedic surgeon, when Dan broke his wrist over four years ago (3) an eye doctor for an eye infection Richard had about five years ago (4) a pediatrician, about six years ago when Tim had a long-lasting chest infection (5) the sister of a friend who's some kind of internal medicine specialist, who gave Dan his vaccinations at the end of last year, prior to his going on the Doulos.

Quickly rejecting the first four as unsuitable, we pondered the friend's sister. Richard wanted me to phone her but I hate phoning, and since we didn't know if this was her field at all, I decided to go and talk to her. Only problem being that I didn't know exactly where her clinic was. And he couldn't remember her name. But he told me approximately where to find it. It's only five minutes' walk from our house so I set out confidently. Most people don't bother with appointments for doctors here - they just turn up, and wait their turn.

I found the only apartment block that was in the right place, and on the outside I found several name plaques. All in Greek, of course, but although I don't understand much, I can read it - and evidently there were three or four doctors working there. One of them did have the surname of our friend before another surname, so I guessed that was the right person. However there was no indication of which floor she was on, and inside the building I could see nothing but some stairs and a lift.

I got in the lift. I mentally shrugged and hit the '2' button. I arrived on the second floor, and there were three offices. A dentist, a lawyer, and a doctor. I went into the doctor's waiting room, and there was nobody there. A disembodied voice called to me (in Greek) to enter, then when I went into the doctor's office, she instantly switched to excellent English - as generally happens in Cyprus. Most Cypriots, particularly professionals, are pretty much bilingual and often have smatterings of other languages too.

I asked if she was the kind of doctor who could deal with this sort of infection, and she said she was a GP. I explained the situation, and asked if she did house calls. She said that usually she does, but she's recovering from some surgery and can only work in her office for the present. However, she said that she could certainly prescribe antibiotics based on what I'd told her. She would, however, need a 'sample' which she would get analysed, to find out exactly what infection was present. She said we should phone on Monday afternoon to get the results. She explained that the antibiotics she was prescribing were general ones which might work, but might not; if not, then the analysis would tell her exactly which ones would be needed instead.

So I paid her £15 for the consultations, and £10 for the testing, then got the antibiotics from a nearby pharmacy (another £10.50). Later on I returned to drop in the sample; one glance told her that my 'diagnosis' was accurate.

So now we'll wait and see.

Somehow I always forget how easy it is to see a doctor here. You just choose one who specialises in the chosen field, and turn up. No need to register, or make an appointment. The fee is standard, and not high enough to be worth having full medical insurance. We do have a basic insurance which would cover hospital stays other than emergencies (which are free) but after the incident with Dan's broken arm, we decided it wasn't worth having extensive insurance. We had a policy that covered everything, with an excess of £50 per incident. Three visits, two x-rays and a plaster cast on and off cost us less than £50 at the time. So we cut down to a more basic policy, and saved several hundred pounds per year by doing so.

I don't think a house visit would have made any difference today, but it's good to know that some doctors do make them. When we get old and frail, assuming we're still here, we certainly won't want to go out to see a doctor if we feel ill.


jj said...

Sounds efficient. It was almost similar in New Zealand ... actually - I still rang to make an appointment but the doctor was always flexible and always free when I needed the appointment. Over here, I'm really struggling to get an appointment - you have to be one of the first to call up at 8.30am or you can't see the doctor, and they don't do advanced bookings, because of that reason, apparently. You'd have to wait a few weeks! It's rude, I think, and Ashford is too big and we don't have enough doctors. Maybe I should move to a less populated place, yea. Anyway, I hope Richard gets feeling better soon.

Lora said...

I can't even imagine such an experience with a doctor in th US. First of all doctors do not make house calls, ever. You must be an established patient to even get an appointment, and of course you need to be under an insurance that they are currently excepting patients with. With the potential for lawsuits getting a doctor to prescribe even an antibiotic without seeing a patient and running bloodwork is very unlikely. And the fee is about what my co-payment with my insurance is. Our hospital fees alone for Liams birth were over $9000 and my doctor's fees were about $5000 for delivery and prenatal care, plus all the test, bloodwork and ultrasounds. But there's no healthcare crisis in America, mind you...

I do wish Richard a speedy recovery.

Sue said...

Sounds like the US is even worse than the UK, as far as doctors go! Wow. I guess Cyprus isn't bad, then.

What puzzles me is: if American doctors won't do house visits, and won't prescribe anything without seeing the patient and running tests, and the patient is too sick to get out of bed.... what happens??

In the UK, when we lived there, if someone was too ill to get out of bed then whoever was on duty would call at the house to see them. I don't know if that's changed in recent years. It could take ages to be seen for something that wasn't crucial, but emergencies or severe illness were always seen pretty quickly.

And gulp!! at the fees for the birth... I can't get my head around having to pay to have a baby. But I guess you did have to take extra care.