Medical insurance and treatment in Prague

Confession: I had a few smokes yesterday to calm my nerves, and, in a way, to soothe my ego. Gimping around town without any accessories that tell the world you‚??re injured or defective is bad enough. Having a leg brace* (or is it a cast? It‚??s one of them corrective things with Velcro straps) takes me back to my pre- to early teens, when I had to wear orthodontic headgear in public, like your average geek sidekick. Not only do I feel sorry for dogs that have to wear those satellite dishes after an operation, I kinda empathise with them.

Every since I arrived here in ‚??96, I‚??ve been kinda wary of Czech doctors, especially those who specialise in orthopedics. One of the many factors that shaped my initial impression of this place was what seemed to me like an inordinately large number of people on crutches. On top of that, a few weeks into settling in, a fellow English teacher quipped, ‚?úI can introduce you to Czechs who have lost their ability to walk because of a visit to the doctor to sort out water on the knee.‚?Ě

Ugh‚?? I kept thinking about that wisecrack when I realized that I probably had water on the knee and would have to see a doctor here‚??

On Tuesday, getting insured was somewhat of a nightmare in itself, though mainly because of my bad timing. The woman handling short-term insurance contracts buggered off for lunch about five minutes after I got to the VZP offices at Vitezne Namesti in Prague 6, which is not exactly a hop, skip and a jump away from Prague 9. I finally got served about forty-five minutes after arriving. However, the hospital would have to wait until the next day, as my insurance wasn‚??t to kick in until then.

Rather than take public transport all the way to Motol hospital (about a ten to fifteen minute bus ride from Andel metro station), I opted to take a cab. As always, AAA‚??s operator was very pleasant (I love the fact that they put you in their database so they know your name when you call), and the cab showed up about seven minutes after I made the order. The ride seemed excessively long, but it ended up being worth it ‚?? the cabbie went the extra mile for me and asked a couple of security guys and a few ambulance drivers for the location of the hospital‚??s foreigner section. He even parked in the emergency area and weathered quite a few dirty looks from the ambulance staff.

A kind security guard ended up leading the way. Turns out that all that extra effort was unnecessary ‚?? had I come by bus, I would have found the foreigner‚??s section in Motol without a problem, as I had been there before. But the way we came by cab kind of disoriented me. In any case, it was nice to go to the hospital in comfort.

Then things took a 180. When one of the clerks in the foreigner‚??s section called the insurance company, I was kept waiting for an hour as it turned out the morons at the VZP hadn‚??t entered me into their system, despite the fact that my insurance was supposedly effective as of yesterday. I kept my cool for the better part of that hour, but lost it after the clerk over to me all shoulder shrugs, head shakes and ‚?úI don‚??t know‚?Ě. ‚?úTell you what,‚?Ě I told her, ‚?úhow about I bash your knee with a hockey stick and leave you sitting here for an hour?‚?Ě

More shoulder shrugs, then ‚?úWe have to wait for them to enter you into their system.‚?Ě

‚?úWell, can I see a doctor while they‚??re doing this?‚?Ě

It was like trying to reason with a cat: ‚?úI don‚??t know if we can accept this card, you must wait.‚?Ě

Then I went off on her ‚?? I know it wasn‚??t her fault as far as the insurance cock-up was concerned, but I kept thinking that it wouldn‚??t have mattered if I had come in riddled with bullets, she would have been just as cold and dumb.

Well, as any quick-tempered foreigner knows, going off on Czechs is an exercise in futility and frustration. I really wish I could master that famous passive-aggressiveness of theirs ‚?? it‚??s kind of admirable.

However, in the end I got to see a doctor. That is, I got to wait a hell of a long time before seeing a doctor, which always sucks, anywhere in the world. Sitting in that long corridor in the Orthopedic section of Motol could not have been any more depressing ‚?? lots of long faces, lots of gimps, lots of cranky old-timers single or double-crutched or in wheelchairs, one old woman with a tracheotomy (I felt she should have had a more profound effect on my efforts to kick the nic sticks, but she didn‚??t, even when she put her finger to the hole in her neck to speak in rusty croaks).

Then, finally, after all the waiting and hobbling and standing with this bitch of a knee, I got to see the doctor. And it was well worth the waiting, hobbling, etc. She was great. Spoke English almost perfectly (British accent) and was friendly enough. She stuck a rather large needle into the side of my right knee and drained it of the excess fluid (I didn‚??t watch, not because of queasiness but because it was nice to have an excuse to lie back with my eyes closed), gave me a prescription for anti-inflammatory pills (good thing I‚??m off the booze right now) and an order for the aforementioned leg brace (or cast, or wrap, or whatever it‚??s called), and told me to stay off my feet for the next week or so (huge drag, especially considering the fact that Richard is coming to stay with us this weekend).

After killing more time in the hospital while waiting for the place that sells orthopedic treatment equipment (there has to be a better term for it than that‚?? damn, that Warcraft is destroying my mind‚??) to re-open after lunch, it was finally time for me to gimp my way back to Blackbridge. Of course, I hopped on the wrong bus and ended up taking a really long way home, ending up out near Nove Butovice. But it was all worth it in the end ‚?? last night was finally relatively pain-free. And I‚??ve got a little more faith in Czech doctors.

*When I googled ‚?úleg brace‚?Ě to make sure I was using the right term, this site (not safe for work) topped the list of results. I find that amusing for some reason‚??

Mar 9, 08:33 (Filed under: Personal, Out and About in Prague )

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