September 16, 2011
In Russia, perhaps the best way to get fast medical treatment is to put your hand in your pocket and pay hard cash. I had an ear problem that went on for about six months without being cured. I would keep going back to a clinic and see an ear doctor. At the clinic, I found that the older the doctor was, the least they seemed to care, perhaps they are tired and underpaid? Eventually, I found a younger doctor at the same clinic who cared and who was professional. The clinic I use, is not one the fancy high priced clinics that legally print their own bank notes but a private public Russian clinic. It does not have frills or attractive doctors with bright white teeth who drive fast cars or who recommend many pointless and unnecessary blood tests, it does not have a plasma TV on the wall or a choice of glossy magazines to read through while you wait but it does have a fair price and fast service. The downside is they can't cope with complex medical issues and can be moody and grumpy. The secret is as with any where in the world these days, is to find a doctor you like, who is human and who you can trust. Many doctors treat you like a faceless peace of meat and when you have a langauge barrier it can be almost impossible.
My young ear doctor tried very hard and prescribed me many treatments such as drops and antibiotic's but nothing would clear my ear of its blockage. He eventually told me that my ear drum had collapsed and was stuck to my ear wall, like a deflated, empty party balloon, his English was poor so I did not push for greater explanation. He recommended me to see his friend, who is another ear doctor, at another hospital in Moscow 'as used by Putin' or so the web page of this recommended doctor suggested. I paid my fee to the young doctor at the clinic and will claim some of it back from my insurance company once I have had my insurance forms stamped in triplicate and had multiple signatures in blood.
I went the next week, to see the new ear doctor. After negotiating my way past the hospital security guard, in what seemed to me like trying to enter North Korea, I eventually got into the hospital and found the doctor at the end of a dark corridor. The hospital looked like it was stuck in a 1960's time warp and reminded me of some hospitals in my own country. I sat in the corridor waiting to go in. Hospital patients would hobble past me with entire legs wrapped up in bandages, others would drift by in different states of bandaged wrapping, some looking like badly dressed Egyptian mummies, some looking like mummies in wheel chairs. They reminded me of when little children play doctors and nurses on each other and wrap up their friends in lose bandages from their toy shop medical bags. Seeing these people made me nervous and I wanted to leave the hospital 'tout de suite' but desperation kept me nailed to my seat.
At last, a sweaty doctor arrived with one ear on his mobile, he shook my hand and showed me into his examination room. The room had three scruffy chairs in it that looked like over sized dentists chairs. People were sitting in them and his examination room looked as bad as the rest of the hospital. I sat in my chair, like a convict on his execution day as the doctor looked into my ear tunnel. He confirmed what his friend, the other doctor had said and told me to go with the nurse to get my hearing tested. The nurse sat me down with a window behind me, her testing room was on the ground floor and outside there were men working on the building and a loud motor lift went up and down carrying bricks to the roof, I had trouble to hear the nurse speak. She sat opposite me, with a device that looked like an old Soviet submarine radar. She told me to push a button on the end of cable whenever I heard an electronic beep noise. It was easy, since she was sitting opposite me and I could see when she pushed her dial to make the beep noise. Russian logic or bad testing room design? After she had finished, she gave me a printout with funny graphs on it and sent me back into see the ear doctor.
My doctor looked at the printout results for only a second, threw it away and bluntly told me I needed an operation. He looked in my ear again and said my ear had "bad ventilation" as if it was a blocked chimney and told me he would put a tube in my ear drum, I did not question his diagnosis as it was all a bit surreal to me as if I was stuck in a strange hospital dream trapped in a 1960's comedy TV show. I asked him if it would hurt? He said "no" and told me he could do it now! When you are told by a doctor, that they can do it now, rather than wait days, weeks or months, you go for it like a man on his wedding night, I did not think about it. He injected my ear to make it numb and stuck the tube in my ear drum, "you have a thick drum" he said as he pierced it with a long bendy needle. Surprisingly, It was painless and took just fifteen minutes to do. After he had finished, he said "I clean it with Vodka and you must pay me now", I asked him how much? He said "It's good for me but bad for you". I paid him 5,000 Rubles (Just over 100 pounds) that I withdrew from the cash machine inside the hospital. This operation was done without any insurance and I left. Insurance forms are not part of the unofficial process in situations like that. You pay cash, the doctor is happy, you are happy, the job is done.
Three weeks later, my ear is perfect and my hearing is great. I like this payment system and wish we had it in the United Kingdom, bribery can be fun. I am very happy not to have paid one of the big greedy expat clinics here and I am very happy to have seen this doctor. Paying him the cash was an excellent decision and I would recommend other expats to follow this system. See a recommended Russian doctor, pay him cash and trust him. All will be fine. If I had gone to one of the fancy clinics here, who's names you can easily search for on Google, I would have waited, been kept in over night and paid several thousand Euro for the same procedure! One point to me, zero points to the greedy, thieving bastards. I have saved the tax payer and the insurance company money. My conscience is clean.
© All Rights Reserved.
Labels: Russian doctors