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The French Medical System March 21, 2008

Posted by gordonwatts in France.

IMG_1421Of the various sites in France, one I was hoping not to see was the French medical system. Sadly, over the last two weeks we’ve gotten to know it better than I would have liked.

First, we managed to give Julia something called nursemaid’s elbow. The solution is quick and instant and requires no drugs, but does need someone who knows what they are doing to snap everything back into shape. This required a trip to the local hospital. Quick and fairly efficient. Emergency room – we were in and out in about 2 hours and that included about 20 minutes face-to-face time with a doctor. The amazing thing about it: they never checked our ID’s. They took down all the information, but never verified that we were who we said we were! And we got the bill last week. Unlike the USA – they send only one bill. In the USA for an emergency room visit I remember getting three or more bills. Guess what the total was? About 34 euros! Even with the exchange rate as crappy as it is now I’m pretty sure it costs more than that to register at an emergency room in the USA!

The second one encounter has been worse. Paula’s mom managed to break her ankle while site seeing and then had an adverse reaction to one of the drugs she was given (“we see this twice a year!” – at least, we think that is the proper translation). Course of treatment? 8 days, in the hospital too. It gets worse – she is totally fine. You’d never guess she was sick. That is “worse” (well, not really) because she is totally bored out of her skull. The doctor has been so apologetic (“I know this isn’t why people come to France…”). We are all going over on Sunday to have a picnic at the hospital. 🙂

But check this out. Paula’s mom has Canadian insurance with a rider for foreign travel. When they were called and the problem was explained to them, they said – oh, give us the phone number of the hospital. We’ll take care of everything – even if you have to be flown back under medical care. Wow!

I’m not medical expert, obviously, but the care as been great as far as we can tell. But there is one difference. In the US – at least around Seattle – there is some stiff hospital competition. Perhaps one by-product of that is the millions of dollars that are spent on renovations. The interiors of the two hospitals I’ve been in in Seattle are like high end 4-star hotels. The hospitals here are like the insides of 1970 physics buildings: functional cinder block.

On the other hand, Paula’s mom, who likes good food, claims the food in the hospital is good!! So French! 🙂



1. The Jaws of the French Medical System « Life as a Physicist - April 7, 2008

[…] medical system operates is totally the opposite of what I’m used to! Paula’s Mom was in the hospital for over two weeks. In the USA I’ve always got the impression that a hospital tries to shoo you out the door as […]

2. Bill Charentes - September 9, 2008

“The hospitals here are like the insides of 1970 physics buildings: functional cinder block.” – sounds more like the UK than France. My experience, in a different region, has been modern and single rooms for patients. Guess it depends on the location.

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