Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Friday, February 09, 2018

It's my arm doctor

As I remember it the, "it's my arm doctor" quote was some sort of running joke. It had to be delivered with a broad Scots accent. Something to do do with the housekeeper, Janet, from Dr Finlay's Casebook.

If you have any idea what I'm talking about then you'll be old. In turn that probably means you see the doctor more frequently than you would like. Our Saturday morning coffee group is a right little hot bed of knee replacements, cataracts, stomach protectors, heart bypasses, pain relief and epileptic fits. Actually, until I fell over frothing at the mouth, having bitten off large chunks of my tongue, I felt a bit out of the conversation. Obviously I go to the doctor's from time to time but the visits have been thankfully few and far between.

Yesterday I helped a pal with his visit to the doctor. The idea was that, as I speak a few more words of Spanish than he does, I could act as a sort of translator. It wasn't that difficult. A couple of questions from the white coated doctor, a bit of tapping on the computer and out of the office in under three minutes with a prescription and an order for a blood test.

Today it was my turn. Three months since my "event" and I had a follow up visit with the neurology department at Elda Hospital. "Right oh", said the white coated doctor, (all doctors in Spain wear white coats as far as I can see. It's like British doctors have stethoscopes though one must be easier to wash and cheaper than the other.) "the electroencephalograph is clear, anything to tell us?" - I complained about a few aches and pains but said basically no. She was nice about my Spanish and she gave me the alta, the up, the opposite of the baja, the down, the equivalent of a sick note. No more treatment, no more check ups, free to drive. In the clear more or less, with certain provisos, given that collapsing in a supermarket is not a sign of robust good health.

Speaking to people about their experiences with the Spanish health system  brings a mixed bag of responses. The few times I've used them they seem to have been first rate but not everyone agrees. I'm a great believer in normal distributions, the idea that most systems are made up of the reasonably competent with far fewer poor or excellent performers. I have no complaints about the health care I've received at all. In fact I would rate it as cracking.

It was strange. Going to the local surgery yesterday I asked someone how the system worked. It was really simple but I didn't know until I asked. Today, at the hospital, I walked in to the outpatients area and there were hundreds of people sitting on hundreds of chairs. I hadn't the faintest idea where to go or what to do. The woman I asked on Patient Services was dead helpful. She rang to check I was booked in and then walked me to the chairs by the right department. Once I was settled in I realised that the people were clustered around various areas - gynaecology or cardiology or whatever. The system was crystal but to me it initially looked chaotic. As I waited I noticed that there were other people as lost as me, people asking others how the system worked, whilst others, who knew the routine, were like fish in water. I suppose we humans learn routines very quickly.

I had a similar sort of thought as I was leaving. In the entrance area there were all sorts of people from lottery ticket sellers and the people who run the various stalls and stands to the hospital staff and habitual attendees - the  accustomed regulars and the lost novices. It was gratifying to think that, at least for the while, I can number myself amongst the bewildered and lost.

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