August 08, 2008
Small Medical Adventures in Switzerland
I've had a sore throat for five days. So yesterday I decided to try to find a doctor to whom to show my throat (hals in German), to rule out something on the more serious side.
This turned out to be harder than I thought. I was anticipating some language problems with German-speaking receptionists. However, what it ended up more being was language problems with Swiss-German answering machine messages.
A local doctor's office in our village, recommended by our kind Irish landlady, is closed until August 18th, as far as I can tell from the message. 11 days to wait.
I tried phoning another doctor, recommended by someone on the Families-in-Zurich yahoo mailing list, in a neighbouring town, and perhaps deciphered that they might have closed permanently as of this month? They said something about August, but maybe they just meant the whole month of August it is closed? But the verb sounded more permanent somehow.
Then I dialled another highly recommended physician in a lakeside town who apparently studied in the U.S. and whose receptionists purportedly both speak English, but there was a long Swiss-German message awaiting me there as well, not sure what that one was about (regular hours resume Aug 15th, possibly?).
Next I went for a doctor heartily recommended by the local expat family organizer lady online, whose message was the clearest yet. It only took me three repeat calls to get it all! It must have been actual high German rather than Swiss-German. Closed Thursday afternoons. Of course it was Thursday afternoon at the time. The U.S. Consulate website warns that this is the case with most doctors in the Zurich area, and now I believe them.
I started to think that maybe I was just not meant to go to a doctor that day or anytime soon.
BUT. But...my throat was really hurting. I didn't look forward to another night and another morning of wondering if I had Lyme Disease or strep or mono or something.
So I persevered a little more. Having clued in that every doctor in Zurich is either away on vacation in August or just not in the office on Thursday afternoons, I started to look up "clinics" in the Zurich area. And into play came Englishforum.ch, which is a cool resource for anglos in Switzerland. There was a thread about a drop-in clinic in the centre of Zürich, open from 7am to 10pm 365 days a year. That sounded more positive. Except it's far away from our house, with complicated parking, and people were going on about how long they had to wait (up to 3 hours for one person). I kept reading and scrolling down the page, when PRESTO, someone mentioned another clinic which is only 15 minutes from our house, in a shopping mall I've been to before and liked, with easy parking, close to David's office (directly on his way home in fact, whether by train or car). Öffnungszeiten: Mo - Fr 08.00 bis 19.00. Sa 08.00 bis 13.00. That is, opening hours 8am-7pm Mon-Fri and Sat 8am to 1pm. Better and better all the time.
I called, now my fifth try at getting an appointment with any doctor, anywhere, at any time: success! The receptionist spoke English, was very pleasant, and booked me in for a couple of hours later! I went in, was assured it is just some little viral thing that will go away on its own, got a prescription for an anaesthetic spray, and met up with David on his way home from work. There was a pharmacy in the mall, so I picked up the meds before leaving.
In the meantime, we have to wait four more weeks to get our health insurance cards - but have been covered since August 1st. It doesn't really matter about the cards, since we have to pay our bills directly, then file for reimbursement by mail. It was a nice arrangement in England where all the regular visits were "free" and the specialist visits and hospital were paid directly from the insurer to the provider. No messing around with paperwork for us. Fantastic. Ah well, we really appreciate things when they change for the worse, right!?
All this is actually very positive, though, as I found the clinic at the mall to be a wonderful place, and I really like the availability they offer. Not closed all of August, not closed Thursday afternoons, and so on. They have a big team of different kinds of specialists. The doctor was friendly and spoke English and seemed competent. Now I just have to get better to prove she was correct in her diagnosis...maybe this will become our family's doctor's office. Or at least a great known resource. So I am thankful.
August 8, 2008 | Permalink
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Certainly hope you are well on the mend by today. Loved our long conversation yesterday! Seemingly no air-conditioning at the River, which ties into something you only miss when you don't have it! A pleasant morning here today and osprey are bathing in the calm waters out front! Love you so...Mom
Posted by: Patricia | Aug 9, 2008 3:48:58 PM
Sounds like you have had lots of adventures and challenges.
May God give you joy and grace as you face each day.
Posted by: paul merrill | Aug 13, 2008 12:29:45 AM