Saturday, 28 January 2012

Going to the doctors....

The whole health care system in Japan is different to what I grew up with in the UK and it still baffles me somewhat at times.

In the UK, you are registered with a local doctor, a GP who has your full set of medical records. If you are ill no matter what it is your first step is to call your GP and make an appointment, your GP will then decide whether it is something minor, if so he/she will prescribe you meds and off you go. If they suspect it is something more serious they refer you to a specialist. If you need emergency care then you either go straight to the A&E (accident & emergency) which is usually housed in one of the big hospitals or call an ambulance and they usually take you to the nearest A&E. Thanks to the NHS everyone is seen to, you don't need insurance. If you work in the UK you have to make a month contribution to the system, if you need a prescription it costs you  £7.40 no matter what it is for and if you are a child, OAP, pregnant or disabled it is free.

Over to Japan, if you get sick the first thing to do is a bit of self diagnosis then you get out google and find your nearest doctor that specialises in that field, so if you think you have an ear infection you look up your local ENT doctor. Usually you don't make an appointment, you just rock up to the doctors then sit in the waiting room for however long it takes. As in the UK the doctor will refer you to a specialist higher up in the chain if they think it is needed. Also, like the UK, the doctors do a special course so that all their handwriting is illegible! Here each doctors office that you visit will have a record of your medical history from that office so there is no nowhere that has all your medical files in one place. This worries me because the doctor has to rely on what the patient tells them, they are unable to see what has been the problem in the past. It is also not the culture to question the doctor in any way, shape or form, some will actually get quite stroppy with you if you do!

You also need insurance in Japan we pay through my husbands company, so you need to have your insurance card and you doctors registration card (kids also have a third card) each time you visit the doctor. You do have to pay for your prescription too but only 30%, kids are basically free, I had to pay ¥100 for Ebi-kuns last prescription.

I dread the day we need to call an ambulance, many think it is better to make your own way to the hospital. Due to the insane address system here often ambulances have a hard time finding the address, most ambulance crew are NOT paramedics and so can only make you comfortable whilst they get you to the hospital. Then there is the decision of which hospital to take you to and there is no guarantee that the hospital will admit you when you get there. When Ebi-kun broke his arm a neighbour took us to the local doctors clinic, I was confused why because I didn't know that they had a x-ray machine and they also do a lot of rehab mainly for older people, thankfully she knew this and decided it was the best place to go.


So, all that said, in my personal experience, I have nothing to complain about and always received great care over here. What started this post is that Ebi-kun has had a bad cough, he usually gets them in winter, it's no biggie. I took him to the local kids doctor, it isn't usually as busy as the other doctors nearby and the younger doctor speaks a smidgin of English (he knows all the words I know in Japanese lol). The doctors usually only give medicine for 3 days, of course Ebi-kun is still coughing so it is back to the doc for him this morning. Above is his prescription, the top three are mixed in one bottle to make the syrup and the bottom is a patch that goes on his chest, like a nicotine patch but it releases medicine instead. I don't remember getting such a details breakdown of the meds when I was in the UK - although it is a long time since I visited a doctor back there.

So, now your turn, what is the health care system like where you are?

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