Monday, March 7, 2011

Medical Care Taiwan Style

I had a scooter accident when I was living in Taiwan. It was partially my fault, so I didn’t take a strip out of the guy who swerved in front of me before jamming on his brakes to turn left. I shouldn’t have been accelerating down the double white lines passing another car. In the midst of his left turn, I ploughed into the side of him, a t-bone crash. My head bounced off the pavement as I hit the ground, but luckily no one ran over me, his bike wasn't scratched and thank God for good helmets. I stood up and quickly brushed myself off while somebody else picked up my bike. I thanked him and jumped on it straight away to make sure that everything was still working. Lights! Tires! Action! Time to go before the police arrive! I had a nasty scrape on my ankle but I was in a jolly good mood when I got home because – I survived!

Five days later I knew the cut on my ankle was infested because it was oozing yellow pus and my ankle was sore to walk on. I went to the emergency room at the University Hospital in Tainan City where I was greeted at the door by two nurses wearing blue uniforms. Within minutes I was getting my blood pressure taken by one nurse while the other was writing down my medical information. They told me to hop on a gurney. Hey, I can walk! Nevermind, get on the gurney. And they wheeled me into emergency.

I was rolled into a large room with all the latest mechanical hardware which is required for hospital emergencies, where I gave a nurse my health card. Another nurse swabbed off my cut and cleaned it up. She stuck a needle in my arm and took two blood samples, then stuck another needle in my hand and hung a saline solution and an antibiotic drip by my head. I was then wheeled into the x-ray room, zap, zap, my ankle was bandaged, and then to the recovery ward, where families were pow-wowsing with their ailing relatives, or waiting to take them home.

Within half an hour a nurse was back to tell me I didn’t have a blood infection in my foot and the x-ray showed no broken bones. I had been worried that I had flesh-eating disease because, for some reason, I don’t worry about choking to death or heart attacks, I worry about flesh-eating disease. She said I could leave once the drip was finished, which was right about then.

At the emergency desk on the way out, they gave me a duffle bag of medicine to take home because nobody ever leaves a Taiwanese hospital without one, whether sick or not. I went home, ate a few pills, put my foot up and drank beer. It was an incredible hour and a half of efficiency and care, and all for just $25.00 American.

One seldom thinks of Taiwan as a place to come to receive medical care, but even without medical insurance the price of an operation would be cheaper than any American or Canadian hospital and probably of better value for one’s money. The doctors are all highly trained professionals who have lived and studied abroad. The hospitals are expertly maintained and the supporting staff is brisk and efficient. The waiting period for an operation would also be half the time. Within one hour of my arrival at the hospital I received a blood test, an x-ray, a saline drip, antibiotics, and a nicely bandaged ankle. In Canada, I probably would have sat for hours in a waiting room, waited weeks for the results of the x-rays and blood tests, and then told to come back in a week if my foot was still hurting, by which time I probably would have developed flesh-eating disease.