SSS (sick of being sick in Spain)

by Evans Yonson

(Note: This blog is a rejoinder to Mod’s blog on the Spanish hospital system.)

Barcelona – I don’t know why hospitals bring back sad and memories to me. But it’s the smell of medicine and morbid thoughts that shiver me right down to my marrow.

I am no stranger to hospitals nor my family. I have been hospitalized twice. The first when I was about 8 or 9 years when Diko planted his ring on my head that I had to be confined for 4 days. The second one was in 1992 when they took away my gall bladder. Nanay and Tatay, during their final years, had to be hospitalized at least once a month. To them going to the hospital was like a walk in the park. Leisurely yet expensively.

Two weeks ago, Ramil (aka Gretchen, aka Princess Rania) and I met up with Now (a very good Thai friend). Now complained about some rashes popping up all over her body. We went to this newly-opened Thai restaurant here in Barcelona and had the best authentic Thai dinner complete with fish sauce with chili.

When we were almost over with our dinner, I noticed that the rashes were starting to show on her face. Now was already complaining that she felt so cold. We suggested that I bring her to the hospital while Ramil had to go home because he was working the next day.

We went to Hospital de Barcelona (a few kilometers away from the Thai restaurant), which unfortunately was not servicing the health insurance company that Now has as a scholar. We had to travel back to where we were originally because there was one hospital near that accepts the insurance she had on her hand.

We got at the hospital immediately before midnight. The rashes were now all over body. A pimple would not have a space anymore on her face. At the emergency room of the hospital, there were already 8 patients waiting to be attended to. At around 2, Now was already shivering from extreme coldness. I was really worried for her but I couldn’t do anything at all.

What’s with the Spanish hospital system that worries everybody so much that they would rather not get sick at all?

First, there is not enough doctors and nurses to attend to patients. Compared to Filipino doctors, the Spaniards study Medicine for 7 years only. It takes at least 9 years to become a general medicine man. At least another 3 years for their chosen field of specialization. Filipino nurses are dime by a dozen. They maybe dimes but they are gold to our government. Spanish nurses? Are they even called nurses, at all?

At any hospital in the Philippines (private or public) and at any given time of day (24H), come rain or shine (hell or high waters), there are at least 1 doctor and 3 nurses to attend to an emergency room case. The more people attending the merrier.

Why in this part of modern Europe has the public hospital system is so primitive that an ordinary check-up for a headache would take three months to get an appointment with a general doctor? If you’re back is aching don’t ever count on the Spanish to diagnose and give you advice immediately.

I heard one Filipino remarked that a single look at your eye, the Filipino doctor could tell you what is your problem. But it will take dozens of questions, paper works and several hours waiting in line for a patient in Spain to get to the physician’s door.

I remember in early 2004 when we had to rush Nanay to Cebu Doctors’ General Hospital. She was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit for one week. In the ICU, only one person per patient was allowed during visiting hours. But we had it our way, our Nanay couldn’t stand being alone with just one person. There we were the whole clan for 24 hours in her room with the envy of her neighbor-patients. We have our way of TLC.

Here in Europe, well probably the whole world outside Asia, Tender Loving Care (TLC) is very remote. There is nothing you can do to the patient except give her flowers and visit her during certain hours of the day. But not us… For us, the warmth and thought that a family is there beside you is already a cure. Albeit not the entire cure itself. It becomes part of the process of healing.

After almost 2 hours of waiting for Now, she finally came out around 4 in the morning. Not feeling cold anymore but still with the rashes. When we parted I was so worried that she´ll feel worse even more.

In the end, it’s better to get sick in the Philippines than to have a headache in Spain.