Friday, May 1, 2015

The long wiat

Waiting for a doctor in Portugal is a bit of a pain.  Whether it's a scan, a check up, an examination or something else, the Portuguese wait for hours.

I'm not saying that the health service is bad in Portugal as the health care you receive as a foreigner here is excellent.  It's the 'service' element that needs some attention.

Portugal's health service has a real problem, especially in our central location.  A very aging population combined with a serious amount of chronic diseases, cuts in funding, doctors moving overseas to earn more money, all go to add up to a system which from the outside view is in crisis. 

As an EU Citizen living in Portugal, you are entitled, automatically, to the same care a Portuguese person would get.  This includes a family doctor, emergency service and hospital care should the worst happen.  

However, a visit to the doctor means at least a 3 hour wait in my experience and a visit to a health care service as an outpatient in the hospital is a whole lesson in patience.    

Our health service runs a 'triage' clinic for people who don't have an appointment booked (an appointment is booked 3 weeks in advance).   You turn up a the health center before 9am to find a waiting room already full of old people.   You have to find the nurse, she asks what's wrong, takes your blood pressure and weighs you, then tells you to sit down.   You wait.

You wait.

Finally the receptionist, whose job it is to hate people and computers, comes and tells you to pay.  This means you're in, you pay your five Euro and you sit back down.   If the receptionist is feeling friendly or you ask with the nicest smile you have in your repertoire then you can find out 'roughly' what time you'll get seen.  
You go for a coffee

You come back

You wait

You wait

Then you get in.  

The doctors are always nice, they don't rush you.  They give you a bit of a Portuguese lesson and thank god, often they speak perfect English.   You never know how awful it is to try to describe pain in another language. 

It's much the same when you have an appointment at a clinic.  You turn up on time, but this time is just a 'rough guide' often 50 people have the same appointment time as you.   At a clinic you need to watch for the 'ticket system'  some waiting rooms operate on a 'take a ticket and wait your turn' system, some don't.  Failure to notice the hidden ticket machine can lead to a very long wait indeed.  Other clinics just make you queue. 

Queuing is something the Portuguese and the English have in common - we do good queuing! 

The moral of this story is to take a good book - You're going to be waiting a long time!

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