Saturday, December 22, 2012

Two days, two hospitals, two cities: Experience with the Turkish Healthcare System

These first few days in Turkey have been quite chaotic - but, hey - such is life.  Within my first two days in Turkey I visited two different hospitals in two different cities - one planned and one unplanned visit.  It has been interesting for me to see some of the inner workings of the Turkish healthcare system and so far, while different is some aspects - it seems that the system is quite efficient. 

Trip 1: The Planned Visit

We woke at six in the morning to get ready for our trip.  I was perhaps a little too lethargic getting ready and cooking my eggs so that we ended up running around last minute - me gulping down my American coffee and throwing on my unzipped boots as we quickly got into the elevator.   We had an appointment at a private hospital in Gaziantep where H. would be having a minor surgery.  The appointment had been arranged by an old middle school teacher of H. and had helped us avoid weeks of waiting, so we didn't want to be late.  We had good intentions at least...

This was the view of the road - on a good spot.  It was quite beautiful, but not good for driving.
(Photo by Turklish)

The weather was still foggy and wet, not the best for driving in an unknown area.  We ended up missing the correct exit to Antep and had to take a round-about way to get into the city.  We eventually found the right neighborhood, but we were already one hour later for the appointment.   Now we had to find the hospital and a place to park.  Not as easy as it might seem.  With the fog it was hard to tell what was around us and there were large open areas with crumbling buildings - it didn't seem like we were in the right place.  We stopped to ask for directions from some men huddled around a coal fire next to the road. 

"Keep going up the hill."  One man directed. 

So we went.  We eventually found the bright, clean, new hospital atop the hill and after roaming for a parking spot for 10 minutes we finally made it inside. 

The next several hours were a little confusing for the both of us as we maneuvered around the hospital from doctor to doctor, office to office making all the necessary arrangements and payments.  Finally we were in the hospital room and all we could do was wait.  I was quite enjoying the cozy chair, managing to sleep a few minutes in my jet-lagged haze.  Then all of a sudden a patient was rushed in on a gurney and I was relegated to the hallway.   The once quiet hallway was now buzzing with the chatter of women, the play of children and the men practically screaming on their cell phones.  H. stood in the doorway in his hospital gown trying to help me decide where I should go and wait until he was done with his surgery.  I eventually went down to the main hospital floor to get a Nescafe and when I returned to the 4th floor my canım had left for surgery. 

I leaned against a wall in the hallway between four ladies and a little boy to my left and four men further down the hallway to the right.  They were all one big family I later learned.  The ladies opened a conversation with "geçmiş olsun" - "may you get better soon".  Soon I was doing my best to decipher their questions and respond with all the clarity I could muster.   I learned they were from another city nearby, Urfa, and that they were Kurdish, which they would revert to speaking among themselves at times before asking me another question. 

H.'s cell phone rang almost non-stop as family called to check in on how we were doing and if he was done with surgery.  I did my best, but apparently my Turkish is not up to par for communicating on the telephone.  Noticing my exasperation and continued use of "anlamıdım", one of the ladies took the phone and helped field questions from the family, her sisters giggling behind her. 

After half an hour or so, we had exhausted the small talk that I could muster and we all sat around in silence.  They took their leave down the hallway and I waited.

Soon the sister of the neighboring patient came out to the hallway to test my Turkish.  We did our round of questioning.  This time I pulled out my dictionary to try to answer some of her complicated medical questions. 

Despite my exhaustion, the language practice was good for me and helped me renew my confidence that I could indeed "get by" with my Turkish. 

To my relief, soon H. came out of the elevator.  Twenty minutes later we were leaving the hospital and making our way back through the fog to Maraş.

Trip 2: The Unplanned Visit

Not quite as dramatic as it may sound, this unplanned visit came about around 10pm on Thursday night.  H.'s little nephew had a lingering fever all day and while he was happy and running about, all were worried and decided to go to the hospital.  This time we went to the public children's hospital in Maraş.  Quite a different experience.  There was one doctor sitting in front of a hospital bed and the children were brought before him as he took their temperature asked some questions and then prescribed the necessary medicines.  The moment the children were laid on the table they all began to cry.  They all seemed to remember the pain they felt the last time they were in a hospital (or so we imagined).  There were many worried parents around, and with the late hour, the hospital was somewhat dark and depressive. 

After the quick visit with the doctor, we were ushered into a room with several beds and two nurses.  This room is probably where all the bad hospital memories were born.  The toddler was quickly put on a bed and suffered a shot in the leg from a needle 2 inches long!  I got a little bit queasy myself just watching it.

Screams filled the air and we were happy when it was over and we could leave.  As we left, I noticed a trail of blood down the hallway and no one seemed to be eager to clean it up.  Food was being prepped near the doorway for the night staff not more than 10 feet away.  Not very appetizing.  I was happy to get out into the fresh, cool night air.  

While I was a little disturbed by this last experience, I have to say - it was all very efficient.  In less than thirty minutes we saw a doctor, got the necessary treatment, went home and the fever went away.  How long would that same hospital visit have taken in America?  Probably several hours in my experience (and would cost at least a hundred dollars with the crappy insurance I have).   

The reality is there could have been blood on the floor in any American hospital as well - especially in an emergency waiting area.  Later, thinking through the experience, the quickness of it all (and the fact that I didn't understand what was going on) might have enhanced my anxiety of the hospital.  Most of my hospital experiences in America have involved private rooms with lots of waiting and the appearance of cleanliness through lots of paper and disposable gloves.  

In general I was impressed by the service we received at these hospitals and the very low cost.  Even without insurance, H.'s surgery was very affordable.  With insurance visits to the doctor or hospital are extremely affordable.  It is a great service to provide healthcare to your people - I hope Americans can come to an agreement on this issue as well.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for joining the conversation!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...