Thursday, July 3, 2014

Emergency (part 3)

Last March I had a health scare. It started with just a little shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and, overnight, escalated to not being able to breathe. I got  up in the morning and even got in the concho with Jewel to go to school. Half-way there, I knew I wasn't going to make it. Could we please just go to the emergency room of that terrible public hospital by school? Surely, being located next to a burning landfill they'll have the resources necessary to deal with a respiratory issue. We got out of the car, walked down to the hill to the ER entrance and asked our way in. It looked promising, until we got to the intake "desk" and they asked if I had a mask. No, I don't have a mask. I'm dying here and you are asking me about a mask? I didn't even know what in the world a mask had to do with anything - I don't suffer from breathing problems. The intake woman told us we needed a mask; they don't have any, we'd need to buy one from the pharmacy.
you may or may not get emergency care
from this very experienced doctor

The problem? It was only 7:30 and the pharmacy doesn't open until 8. Meanwhile, I couldn't breathe and I was scared. Instead of playing the game - mostly because we had no idea what the rules were - we walked back to the avenue, paid a concho to take us to a private clinic in the city and hoped for the best. I got nebulized twice that day and even after a few minutes on the machine I felt like a new person. I didn't pay more $40USD for the treatment and emergency care, but $40USD is a week's salary for most people.

Luckily for us, we've not had any real emergencies - Amely's ear bleeding, my one-time breathing issue, a few night-time/weekend fevers, some stitches - and the emergencies we've had have not been very serious.

Emergency medical care is laughable in public centers, but it is not any better in the private clinics. There is no "emergenc-ology" - most of the docs working in ERs are the doctors who just don't cut it anywhere else. From what I understand, the "emergencies" that are generally presented are so routine that it is not necessary to have specialty doctors waiting around. The occasional car accident or burn victims call in the on-call doctors.

Emergency care is generally cheap - especially because, with insurance, it covers all of the medications that they give you, plus the bed-fee and doctor honorarium. We paid just $16USD when Amely had the chicken-pox - which included a salmonella test, blood and urine tests and an IV of saline solution plus anti-vomit and fever-reducing medicine (don't even get me started on all of that). A friend of ours spilled a pot of boiling water on her lap and the bill for all of the services she received was $60USD, for what she reports was pretty decent medical care.

A visit to the local, public hospital to get stitches
for one of our students.

I visit that tragic public hospital far more frequently than I would like to admit, but considering the lack of resources, the doctors and nurses in the ER are polite, receptive and good at what they do. I've taken numerous students for stitches and the service is quick and as painless as stitches can be. And it has never cost us one cent. (In fact, the antibiotics, triple-antibiotic cream and tylenol that we have to purchase in these situations costs less than $3USD). Now that I know most of the emergency care nurses and intake personnel, we get nice service (and a lot of our students have reaped the benefit of a good relationship with these people).

Obviously, I don't have any serious emergency experience here (and for that I'm thankful), but basic emergency care isn't terrible - and I guess it really depends what you call an emergency. Make sure to steer clear of the public centers unless you know the people who work there, but remember that just because a place is swanky or costs more, doesn't mean you'll be getting better care.

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