Over the last couple of weeks, I've managed to get a first-hand look at some of the pros and cons of the Danish healthcare system.
Up until two weeks ago, I'd only needed to see my regular doctor a couple of times for minor things. But sometimes life decides to toss a whole lot at you at once, and this appears to be one of those times.
Having visited my local hospital 3 times in the last week and a half, and with more visits impending, I now have a much clearer understanding of the way the system works. And, in some cases, doesn't work.
I'll start with my first trip to the hospital, which was about a week and a half ago. We probably should have asked the taxi to take us to the ER, but we just asked to go to the hospital. So, he dropped us off at the main door, and we went to the information desk to ask where to go. Instead of sending us to the ER, he sent us directly up to the department that would deal with my particular issue. The nurses there were lovely. I filled out some forms, and waited around for a while. They were right in the midst of a shift change, so it ended up being a couple of hours of waiting, but otherwise they were all perfectly nice. When I finally saw a doctor, she was absolutely lovely. When it was all done, I was sent on my way, relived at the idea that I wouldn't be getting a huge bill in the mail from the ordeal.
Visit number two happened a few days later, and didn't start out quite as smoothly. We went, once again, to the information desk, who sent us to the same department we'd been in a few days prior. When we got there, we couldn't find anyone. We finally came across a doctor and explained why we were there. She looked at us baffled, and told us, "You can't just come up here. You have to have a doctor call us and tell us you're coming." I explained that it was Saturday, which is why we couldn't have gone to my doctor, and she told me that an emergency doctor had to call her department. When we asked where we could find an emergency doctor in the hospital where she works, she responded with, "I don't know. Can't you just Google it?" At that point, we went back to the information desk and were directed to the emergency room. From that point on, everyone was much nicer and more helpful.
At the end of visit number two, I was told that (if necessary) I could come back within the next seven days without having to go through the ER first. This turned out to be necessary. I decided to call first to let them know I was coming, so I looked the number for the department up on the hospital website. The woman on the phone was lovely, but told me to call another number. I called that number, and was rudely told to call another number. Luckily, the third number was the charm, and off I went. This third visit also went fairly smoothly, though there was some confusion when my doctor changed in the middle due to another shift change.
One thing that I've observed over the last year of living here and my occasional trips to see the doctor, is that they seem to like to do as few tests and examinations as possible. In fact, I have never once actually been examined by my doctor. Every time I visit him, I sit in a chair and we chat. Sometimes he'll refer me somewhere for blood tests or other various things, but he has never once even touched me other than to shake my hand. It makes sense that, with socialized medicine, they don't want to spend any more time or money than necessary, but I do worry that they might miss something crucial.
That being said, the hospital is planning to have me back for even more tests for an issue that my American doctors never seemed to question.
The best thing about all of this is knowing that, not only will I not be getting a bill in the mail, I also won't have to spend days on the phone arguing with an insurance company to get them to cover it.
The bad news? My impending hospital visits involve needles. Lots and lots of big, scary needles.
Have I mentioned my needle phobia?