Making the Rounds

When I get sick, I'd rather stick it out at home. The last thing I fancy is being propped up in an ER, waiting for a doctor to tell me something that I already know - that I'm really sick and that I need to rest at home - and then to prescribe a party bag of colorful med-candy that will do little more than get me woozy. I only hit the hospital circuit when my back goes out, when I have a biking accident or lose parts of limbs. Needless to say, when my daughter gets sick, all bets are off. This last weekend, I visited eight doctors at three different locations. My daughter was burning up with a fever peaking at 40+ degrees Celsius. And I was having a hard time finding help.

When she first hit 40+, I was just leaving my office last Friday night. My wife called me and asked that I meet them at the Taipei Women and Childrens' Hospital. Ahleena actually managed to get up to 40.2 C. Luckily for us, the doctor was competent. He gave Ahleena a suppository which brought her temperature down immediately. Then he took time to explain babies are capable of getting a little hotter than big beings, but that we should also come back if she reached 40 again. The next day, I was running errands when my wife called to tell me that Ahleena was again at 40. When I arrived at the Taipei Women and Childrens' Hospital, I found my wife and sick daughter impatiently waiting for me in ER. My daughter was burning up, and immediately demanded a "hug hug".

"What's going on?" I asked, picking her up.

"The doctor has just looked at her," my wife explained. He had simply prescribed a second bag of medicine, one day after our initial visit and bag, after looking at her for 30 seconds.

"What tests did he run?" I asked.

"Are you kidding me?" my wife responded. "He says we will have to check her in if we want tests run." My wife also explained that there were no more insurance rooms (meaning three babes to a room but covered). We'd have to rent a room for NT$2,000 a night to get the tests.

"Are you telling me that we have to rent a room to get medical service?"

"Yep," she answered.

When I complained to the ER nurses (who obviously thought this "doctor" was not holding up to his responsibility), they phoned him so that I could complain directly. "No, no, that's okay," I answered, feeling the usual fatigue.

"No, you must," they insisted. When the "doctor" showed up, they seemed to enjoy my asking him if he were a medicine salesman or a doctor? I also inquired about when the real doctor from Friday night would be back. I asked this "doctor" if he could speak English, but quickly decided to keep this conversation in Chinese for the enjoyment of all.

My brother-in-law then materialized and suggested we go to a "famous" baby clinic in Wanhua, my old stomping grounds. We were there for about two minutes when the "famous" doctor, after a stab/glance at her throat, prescribed yet another bag of medicine. When I asked him if his clinic had a real doctor, he said: "Go to the hospital." Now we had three bags to sift through, and were genuinely confused.

Knowing not what to do or which meds to choose from, we proceeded to Tai-da University Hospital. Here's where the good part kicks in: Tai-da provided us with four doctors. They spent about a half an hour on my daughter, with a battle-axe nurse riding shot-gun. In Taiwan, I advise you to do the following: find an intern or two. They are much less jaded; they don't realize the business of selling medicine yet. When the young doctors asked me about the previous doctor, I explained we had only seen medicine salesmen. They found my comments amusing and we were able to chuckle together.

Actually, Taiwan's universal medical insurance is wonderful by anyone's standards. I say only this: find a doctor you can stand, like the very kind and able Dr. Lee who delivered my child 1.5 years ago, and stick to him (or her). Don't be duped by all the businessmen masquerading as doctors. If you bump into one, demand that your medical insurance card is un-swiped and that the charges aren't made. Or do as my wife says and take their name down. "They don't do any action but try to check you into the hospital!" she tells me.


Anonymous said...

Stay out of the clinics. I have discovered this on my own from doing a round of the clinics. The hospitals did a better job of locating the problem and helping to medicate it responsibly. I've been diagnosed with type one diabetes recently and have had a heck of a time finding a clinic that can deal with it properly. It is frustrating clinic hopping when sick and lacking the energy and unlimited time to carry it out.

Patrick Cowsill said...

My friend from California was also diagnosed with diabetes. The doctor he first conferred with at the Women and Childrens' Hospital seemed to think that "foreigners" weren't entitled to medical assistance on this count. So much for the Hippocratic Oath or the Taiwan Constitution, which states that people in Taiwan will not be discriminated against.

Also, my wife returned to the Tai-da Hospital last Tuesday to discover that the three days' worth of antibiotics we'd been forcing down our daughter's throat throat weren't necessary. The doctor refused to prescribe any more, and said finishing a seven-to-ten day cycle was irrelevant. We had (and Taiwan as well) had paid for four candy bags of meds for no reason. Like I said: medicine salespeople.

Anonymous said...

My 2 cents:

Often overly anxious parents (who can blame them) demand action and prescription, and some doctors are only too happy to comply. This is true everywhere, not just Taiwan.

Sounds like your daughter has had an episode of common cold. Chicken soup and liquid Tylenol usually do the trick. Antibiotics is a no-no, unless strep throat is confirmed with culture.

Diagnosis aside, GPs don't usually do a good job treating Type I DM, either. The anonymous person above needs to see a real endocrinologist. It is Type I, not Type II? (Huge difference in management.)