Yesterday, I went to see a doctor here in Taiwan for the first time. Nothing serious, just my semi-annual dose of sinus infection and bronchitis. Somebody on the plane over here was hacking up a lung, and I suppose it got passed onto me through the recycled air.
The last time I was on the receiving end of health care in a foreign country was in 2000 when I got malaria in Uganda. That experience was a little different from North American health care, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect here. How would I communicate with the doctor? How would I let him know which antibiotics I can’t take?
So, my friend Sunny took me to a clinic near her house, which she usually visits when she’s sick. It looked about the same as a walk-in clinic in North America, except a little smaller, and with Chinese everywhere. We signed in to see the doctor, and within 5 minutes, I was sitting in front of a guy with a surgical mask on his face. He said, “Do you feel any discomfort?” I definitely wasn’t expecting an English speaking doctor, but his English was pretty good! He checked out my ears, eyes, nose, throat, and listened to my breathing. He then pronounced me sick, and wrote out a prescription. The whole visit took less than 10 minutes, followed by a visit next door to the clinic to fill the prescription. The total cost for doctor’s visit was about $900 (taiwan dollars), which is about $30 US. Not bad! The whole visit was surprisingly normal…and even more surprising, MUCH more efficient than any of my visits to see the doc back home.
If I had gone to a doctor specializing in traditional Chinese medicine, I’m sure this report would be much more exciting. Maybe next time…but for now, I just wanted friends and family to know how well taken care of we are and how good the health care here seems to be.