seeing a doctor

January 11th, 2008

In two years in Holland I've been to a doctor twice. That's probably even a bit above average compared to the numbers over the last decade or so. As I'm now cracking the two year mark I went again today. Over the holidays I caught this nasty flu that's been pestering me for a week, with lots of coughing, not much sleep, and a general feeling of sluggishness.

I ended up going to this all night clinic after I went to the wrong location and got bounced around a little. I would have gone to the same place as the last two visits, but it's across town and with my bike being stolen yet again, it's just too far away. There is this place where they have a bunch of barracks (like at a construction site) and for some reason the all night clinic is located there. Odd place for a clinic. As I walk in I immediately get this strange sensation of having entered another dimension. There is a big plate of glass between me and the receptionist, with no holes and nothing that opens up. Only that little slot in the counter for passing stuff back and forth. It's like I'm in a recording booth, because she has to press in a button while she's talking to me for me to hear. In the back there are about 6 women sitting behind computers talking into headsets. Like people are calling in to order taxis and pizzas or something. This solid booth is the landing for anyone who enters the clinic. There is another solid door between it and the waiting room, with a lock on it. So if you don't have an appointment or you can't get along with the receptionist, she's gonna keep you from getting in there.

The receptionist I got (out of the 6 who were in the room) wasn't the most accommodating. She would ask questions in Dutch, I would answer in English, she would talk in Dutch again. When I didn't understand, she would bite the bullet and speak English, and then immediately go Dutch again. Most people when faced with this situation decide to have it in just one language. I don't have Dutch medical insurance, so I would "be paying". Okay, how much? 77 euro. That is... for one visit? Yes. (Not for a coupon of a dozen tickets or something.) And it absolutely had to be in cash. You would think for a place that isolates its staff behind bomb proof glass they would be more comfortable with electronic transfers and not having any hard money on site. Okay, but I don't have that kind of money on me. I haven't carried around sums like that since... well, ever. The nearest ATM is pretty far away too. Utrecht is very densely populated, but it is mostly suburbia-like, not city. So I get an appointment made and I step on it to get back in 30 minutes.

My appointment was.. short, but brief (like an English teacher of mine once quipped about a presentation I'd given). It was only as long as it needed to be: 6 minutes. 77 bucks for 6 minutes, so that means I paid 988 euro/hour to see my doctor. Am I crazy or is that rather high? Then again, if I had renewed my Dutch medical insurance, that goes for 300/year. I'd rather pay 77 once or even twice a year.

So I get out of there, past the waiting room, and into the tiny-but-freezing all night pharmacy. This room isn't even heated. There's only one guy working there and he's not especially fast, so just waiting for him to process one customer ahead of me took 10 minutes. Here too the sheet of glass. I was amazed by how small the place is. This is the pharmacy attached to the all night/weekends/holidays clinic, so whatever drugs you'd need at a regular pharmacy, you might need them here too, it's the one place in town that stays open. And he's only got one room with a bunch of shelves and filing cabinets.

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3 Responses to "seeing a doctor"

  1. Paul Matusiak says:

    77 bucks for 6 minutes?! Man you crazy? Hope it was worth it..

  2. erik says:

    EUR 77,- sounds like an insane amount of money but I suppose they charge more for the night shift?

    Story reminds me of a time I went to a clinic in the Hague. Course I lived in a district where gangs dealt drugs on the street corner but nevertheless. It was exactly like the place you described with the bullet proof glass and everything. Sorta surreal.

  3. Boyo says:

    It's the going rate. It's even higher in Rotterdam. I once got a bill for €86 after an after hours visit, and that was in 2002 already. But it's a flat fee. If you'd been in there for a full hour it would still have been the same amount.

    But on the whole it's indeed cheaper than getting insurance. I pay roughly €1200 a year and still have an 'eigen risico' of a €150 (meaning that I have to pay the first €150 in medical expenses out of my own pocket, before the insurance company starts paying). But the only serious medical costs I had in recent years were back in 2002, so basically I'm paying premium for nothing.