December 13, 2010
He has had a bad cough for over three weeks now. Each time we go there, we are given drops and syrups that have no effect. I went straight to the office at the medical centre where they provided me with a translator. On this visit, I took with me all the useless bottles, drops and potions they had given me before, to ensure that I would not be given the same useless bottles and drops on this visit. I made my way up to the doctors office with my heavy carrier bag full of clanking bottles in one hand and my wriggling wheezing kid in the other. I put all the useless bottles on the doctors desk and the doctor listened to my kids chest and suggested I buy a nebulizer and some inhaling liquids. The translator communicated with the doctor, the doctor communicated with the translator and it went back and forth lost in a dance of translation. The translator was unsmiling and unsympathetic. We left the doctors room with yet more prescriptions and headed downstairs to the phramacy.
At the pharmacy, in the medical centre, they put the nebulizer machine in a carrier bag along with the liquids and asked me for 4,000 rubles. I gave them my Visa card and the pharmacy assistant put it in the card machine, I entered my pin code, nothing it was rejected. I then tried again, rejected. I then tried my Master card and the same thing happened, people were waiting in line and getting angry and the pharmacy was filling up with people. I had cash in my pocket but was saving it for food shopping, it was the only cash I had until my wife would get back from her business trip, food or medicine? In desperation, I told the translator that they could keep my passport and that I would come back with another card the next day when my wife would be back in Russia. She took us to see the pharmacy manager. In her office, the translator told her my request, the pharmacy manager looked up at us from behind her desk and with cold eyes and a stony heart she said the single Russian word that I hate 'Niet' No. So I painfully counted out the last of my Russian cash and left the pharmacy feeling angry and wound up. Cow, may your nipples fall off and may you burn in hell.
I then had to get all my medical insurance forms filled out, signed and stamped, my form had to be signed by the doctor and the same form had to be stamped (in two places, in different boxes on the form) at one admin window and I had to pay for the doctor consult at another window, (strangely at this window my card was accepted). Jesus wept. After all this bureaucracy, I felt ill and needed a doctor. Luckily, I had a spare form!
We have to jump through these hoops whenever we visit the doctor here, its a long story. This is stressful at the best of times but when you have a small toddler running around the medical centre terrorizing the staff, its even more stressful. When you don't speak the language and have a sick kid and have no money, its highly stressful. Note to self, learn Russian or leave Russia. In fact, just getting your insurance forms filled out and stamped may cause you to have a heart attack or high blood pressure and you will have to fill out more forms.
I think Russians can be cold, if you don't speak the language. If you are foreign, they assume that you have insurance and that everything is paid for. Some foreigners here have that luxury and their insurance pays the medical centre directly cutting out the need for the claim form song and dance. Unfortunately, I don't have such a system and can't have such a system. Don't ask why.
I refuse to use a well known medical center here, named after a famous European currency last word 'medical', because they charge 150 euro just to see the doctor, excluding any medical tests. They have got rich on foreign insurance and I often see the doctors parking their 911's in the street when I walk past with my kid each day. However, I may be forced to swallow my entrenched principals and go there if my kid is not better soon, however we will still have these bureaucratic hoops to jump through in order to get paid back.
The story does not end there. In order to get paid back any medical costs in Russia, we have to send one copy of the claim form, including a copy of prescriptions and receipts to one office and another scanned copy of everything has to be sent off to another office. We wait about three to four weeks, then we may be paid back some or all of the costs. This is all true I swear on my aunts Fannies life dear reader.
Note to nebulizer virgins: Try holding a face mask on an under two, while he/she wriggles and screams. Tip, strap kid into stroller and put kid in stroller in front of the TV while you use the face mask. All part of life's learning process dear reader.
Labels: Medical bureaucratic hoops