Sunday, July 01, 2007

Health Care

Taiwan has cheap universal health coverage- everyone pays like $6 US per month, and doctors' visits cost about that much. So people go the doctor for everything. Have a cold, go to the doctor. Have a big zit, go to the doctor. It's crazy.

They say that lots of the doctors are trained in the US and speak great English, but I don't know. I've only gone once, and it wasn't much of an experience. I tell people, if I have a cold, I just take some cold medicine (from the US; they don't sell decent cold medicine here) and in 4 days I'm pretty much better. It's how colds work. No one seems convinced though.

My poor roommate Kathryn, she was pretty sick last month and she thought she had some kind of ear or throat infection, so she went to the doctor and he gave here some medicine but didn't check her out very thoroughly. So she got a Chinese friend to take her to the hospital- she said they give you a chart and you have to take your own blood pressure, height and weight, and record it. When she finally saw the doctor he woudln't even look in her ears or take a throat culture- he was just like, no, I don't think you have anything! Finally she went to another doctor who was good- he looked in her ears once and was like, wow, you have a terrible infection! I will go to him if I get sick again.

Another girl at work was very sick. Her parents are from Hong Kong so she looks Chinese but her Mandarin isn't great. She said the doctor could speak English but kept talking in Chinese and he stuck these really long metal sticks up both sides of her nose and yelled at her to relax. She said it was so painful.

Then they give you all this medicine- it's always 3 or 4 pills dosed together in little bags that you take for a few days. We westerners joke that they give the same 4 pills to everyone- a powerful painkiller, a Prozac, and 2 placebos- and figure it will make anyone feel better.

There are also traditional-medicine practitioners but they are more about prevention than cures. And tend not to have English-speakers on site.

The pharmacies are weird here- you can go in and buy birth control, anti-despressants, whatever you want, no prescription required. Unless you want, you know, benadryl or Aleve. Cause they don't have that. I tried a few places and couldn't find even basic allergy meds. Even convincing Chinese people that allergies exist is hard- before I got my shipment of US allergy meds, my allergies were acting up and I would explain allergies even to people who spoke great English and they were like, no, I think you need to sleep more, that doesn't sound true. So it goes.

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