Doctors, dentists, and that sort.

I cannot count how many doctors' appointments I have had in the last six months.  In August, I had seven interactions with the Czech system in less than two weeks.  Previous to this, I had been to the doctor once, for her to sign off that I was fit to work.  Yet in the last six months, I needed antibiotics, found a dentist and finally got a cleaning, and--with being pregnant--have had many appointments regarding the pregnancy.

I officially have more experience with the Czech system now than the American one.   With my little experience with the American system (just the occasional sports physical, booster shots, and the rare antibiotic), I won't do much comparing here, but will rather just tell of my experience.

It started with having finally ticked off a couple things this summer from my list: get a dentist and get a gynecologist.  Referencing a list put together by some colleagues, I contacted some English-speaking doctors.  At first I'd tried Dr. Buchta (translation: Dr. Cake), a local gynecologist, but the Czech-English phone conversation was so odd (and involved him telling me I was interrupting his vacation) that I finally tried another gynecologist, who also fields his own calls and who regularly addresses me in English.  I was able to use my Czech with a dental hygienist/secretary to schedule my first dental appointment with an English-speaking dentist.

Once scheduling is settled (and usually some chocolate or coffee helps to soothe the nerves of those phone calls), there's the matter of finding the places.  I feel like there are clinics and offices hidden everywhere.  I was sweaty by the time I got to my dentist's for the first time, having walked to the wrong dentistry, had an awkward conversation with a different dentist, then consulted a pharmacy, and finally entered what looked like an apartment complex. I went upstairs, and saw a central area with various doors and waiting areas stationed around.  There I saw a word that made me think the office would in fact be someone specializing in stoma sites (stomatologie).  But no, in fact, I saw my to-be dentist's name.  There was a small square waiting area surrounded by 4 doors interspersed with chairs.

I didn't know what to do.  Should I knock on the door that had the hours posted next to it?  The woman gave me a reassuring look and I knocked.  It was opened and I had a glance into what was the entire dental practice, with a seating area for the assistant.  She popped her head out and took my name. I took the loner chair between two doors, and she brought me paperwork.

I was stumped on the first blank: name.  Married name?  Documents-bearing name?  The same went for address.  I proceeded further through the questionnaire about my dental well-being.  Somehow the intricacies of dental history and hygiene haven't yet come up in my Czech lessons (English students reading this, beware!).  I got the gist of most of the questions and left those blank that I couldn't quite comprehend.

Now, most other appointments I've had haven't required much paperwork.  Moreover, since I now have documents bearing my proper name, it's easier to manage.  However, one pattern that has continued is confusion at finding the proper offices.  My gynecologist's office was visible from the route the bus took, but was also located within what looks to be a normal apartment building.

Because both my dentist and gynecologist are private, they often send me with papers ordering the services of other medical establishments (blood-draws, x-rays, special ultrasounds, etc.).  This always increases the fun, as I first find the building (sometimes within a larger complex), then struggle to navigate the hallways and Czech labels.  I usually had difficulty with this in the USA, so here it's extra fun.

I can say that I've successfully arrived at each appointment and doctor's visit, which includes the regular offices of my dentist and gynecologist as well as five other locations.  Yet then there's the question of what to do once I get there.  Some norms are easy to pick up: in Czech restaurants and cafes you seat yourself.  Other norms aren't consistently established.  Some medical offices have had reception desks where you hand over your doctor's order.  Some have these desks with no one there. Many times there are just doors with labels.  I'm never sure if I should knock on a door or just sit down.  My current strategy when I arrive is to sit down, keep my doctor's order visible in my hand, and make eye contact with any medical professional that emerges from the magic door.  Sounds fun, doesn't it?

Yet, I can say I'm satisfied.  The insurance covers basically all appointments, with the exception of my initial appointments and an ER visit (at the ER I had to pay 90 CZK [about $4]).  Most of my medications have been covered, and all have been at least discounted (one medication i was taking at the beginning of the pregnancy I had to pay $1 per box).  I had to get compression stockings due to some current vein issues, which would have been completely free if I'd had a prescription, but after the specialist didn't write the prescription (just the recommendation), I didn't want to wait in another doctor's office just for the prescription, so I paid the $30.  In sum, I'm thankful that these visits don't put me in the poor house.

Moreover, on a services level, I can say that I've generally been satisfied with the competence and treatment by doctors.  In particular, the specialist who did an ultrasound of my veins was extremely polite and had great bedside manner.  So, all inconvenience aside, I think I'll be quite alright within this health system.

And now I can look forward to another healthcare-filled week, as tomorrow I visit a maternity ward, Wednesday go in for a blood draw, and Thursday see good-old Mr. Gynecologist.


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