Being sick sucks. I discovered earlier this week though that it can suck a lot less… if only there were ways of doing things more efficiently.
I had been coughing and sneezing for a week, but Monday afternoon, realizing that I was short of breath after a single flight of stairs, I decided I needed to see a doctor. It was entirely possible that I had pneumonia, and you try to not mess around with things like that.
Being in a foreign land I asked my boss what the procedure was for seeing a doctor. He asked Ito-san (one of his fellow managers who is native to Japan), and she looked up walk-in clinics in the area. It turns out there are are two in the complex that houses both one of our company’s towers and my hotel. Both asked if they could accompany me, but in a moment of sheer optimism I told them I would be okay.
I found the first clinic pretty easily (Ito-san had printed out maps and circled them). I walked in, asked the receptionist if I was in the right place to see a doctor, and once that was established she asked me about a Health Insurance Card. It seems they don’t get many gaijin in the clinic, and as Japan has socialized medicine (take lessons USA) it is usually just assumed that they need not take credit cards. I confirmed that I had sufficient cash to pay for the visit (under $50) and had a seat.
I filled out their paperwork… fortunately the receptionist was able to translate where my name, address, and phone number went. I told her I am allergic to penicillin, and she asked me to wait. Having long experience with long wait times in walk-in clinics and Emergency Rooms, I pulled out my Surface Pro to start reading. By the time I started on page 4 I was called in to see the doctor.
Remember I mentioned earlier that i was optimistic? The doctor spoke English – if not fluently, then at least well enough to ask the right questions and to treat me. He told me I would need to have a chest x-ray taken, and I figured that would mean a trip to another clinic, another wait, another….
No! The clinic has their own x-ray machine, and I was not able to sit down before the nurse/technician called me in. I took my shirt and chain off, and she did her thing. I put my shirt back on, and went into the outer office to sit and wait. I didn’t finish another page before the doctor called me in because he had the results of my x-rays up on his screen.
Wow… I was in and out (including x-rays) in under 20 minutes. The doctor explained the prescription meds I needed, what they were for, and where I could get them. The visit (including the x-rays) cost 5,900 Yen (about $63).
The meds (five days worth of three different meds) cost another $45. This was actually where I had the only complication – the first pharmacy I went to (in the same complex) only accepted the Health Insurance Card… or cash. Because I needed to pay by credit card I had to go to the other pharmacy (also in the same complex).
From the time I dropped my laptop bag in my room, went to see the doctor, had x-rays, went to two separate pharmacies and bought dinner until the time I walked back into my room was under an hour. If it was that efficient back in Canada I would probably not be so hesitant to see doctors.
Oh, one more thing… I picked up a pack of face masks… in Japan when you are sick it is courteous to wear them so as to prevent spreading your germs to others. I wore one for breakfast, to my meetings, and when I went out for lunch and then for dinner. My boss commented that I didn’t look out of place here, and in fact people would appreciate that I was being courteous. If I wore this mask in public in Canada people would think I was going to rob them at knifepoint.
I may not be happy about being sick, but I am thrilled by the efficiency with which the Japanese system deals with illness. As per the doctor’s orders I am spending a couple of days in bed (yes, I went to the meeting AMA… it was a very important meeting) but I will be much better when I go back to the office on Thursday… and nobody on my team will worry about catching anything from me!