One evening, I accompanied my husband who went to have a chest x-ray. The general practice here is to go to a radiology lab with a doctor’s order in hand to have the x-rays taken. An appointment rarely needs to be made as most welcome walk-ins.
Once we arrived, there was only one person being seen, so we didn’t have long to wait. It only took a few minutes to have the x-ray taken and then another five minutes to wait until they were ready. The radiologist then read the findings and all was well with only a cost of 45.00 Euros. What was also very different, was the fact that we were able to take the x-rays with us, not that we would need them, but after all, we did pay for them!
Back home, this is unheard of, unless of course you are seen in an emergency room where you can have the x-rays taken and the results given on the same day. I always wondered why they make us wait to have routine x-rays done and then having to make an additional appointment weeks later to get the results. Forget about even touching the x-rays after the fact, much less taken them home with you!
This morning I went in to my doctor’s office to have some blood drawn. Usually, here in Greece, people tend to get the order from their doctor and then go into a lab where they don’t have to long as wait to have blood drawn. Since I didn’t get my lab order prior to, I decided to just have it done right then and there.
Luckily when I arrived to my doctor’s office, I was in shock to see that there were not 30 women waiting to be seen like last time, but only two. I was relieved as I had left my daughter with my husband at work and told him I would see them sometime within the next few hours. He planned an entire afternoon with her just in case I didn’t return early. After a few minutes, one of the ladies waiting went in to be seen when the other came out. The lady that was waiting called over the other patient to ask her the procedure for an exam. She basically wanted to know what clothes she could leave on…etc..etc. She was relieved to find out that she didn’t have to remove all her clothing and went on to discuss a bad experience she had with another doctor. Of course, I was only able to pick up bits and pieces of this conversation since I am not that fluent in the language. Once her informer left, she walked over to me and started talking away. All I could do was smile and act as though I understood all she was saying. She seemed quite relieved with the information gathered and was anxious to get her exam over with. She went on and on and for the life of me, I was not able to shut her up. I tried looking away, acting as if I were watching TV, but there was no end in site. Once the other patient came out, she went in still talking and continued with the doctor. Since they were behind closed doors, I couldn’t make out all she was telling him, even though her voice was as loud as a big rig truck coming towards you out on the freeway. Her voice grew louder and louder. From the doctor’s comments to her, I could tell he just wanted her out of there. After her exam, he kept telling her goodbye in a polite manner but she just kept on and on. He finally had to walk to her to the door but she still didn’t get it. At that point, I got up and walked around her straight in his office and it was at that point that she finally realized that her visit was over.
My doctor was relieved that the patient was gone. He was in a hurry as it was lunch time for him. As he gathered the items needed to draw my blood, he kept on bursting out laughing every so often and nodding his head in disbelief as to what the previous patient told him. I’m sure he would have told me what she said but we have somewhat of a language barrier problem. That, and the fact he was in a hurry to get out there before another woman with an even better story showed up.
Charges for routine medical tests here in Greece usually depend on the doctor you see and his reputation in the community. However, charges are cheaper when compared to that in the U.S., even if one does not have insurance (example: doctor visit 30.00 euros – teeth cleaning 40.00 euros). ER services and Ambulance rides to public hospitals are free. Of course, avoiding hospitals is the best plan anywhere. The tradition of nursing as a profession is not well developed and hospitals depend on families for much care. Doctors are highly trained – many in the U.S. Pharmacists can get whatever you need and most drugs do not require a prescription. Costs are, by U.S. standards, reasonable.
**Note: one thing that has amazed me since I moved here has been the hospital ER services. When going in for any kind of emergency, you don’t see a regular ER physician but instead you are sent to a doctor within the hospital who specializes on the illness or problem you have (example: when I fractured my finger, I was sent to an Orthopedic).
One of the biggest concerns for those who are planning on moving here is insurance, but there is no need to be, unless you have major medical problems. Most of us who have insurance do not use it the majority of the time. Doctors here have insurance day while other days are not. For the convenience of not having to wait in a room full of people on insurance day, we opt to go on non-insurance day and pay the 30.00 euros out of our pocket.
Emergency surgery here is not as expensive as in the U.S. either. I had an emergency c-section due to complications during labor, stayed in a birthing center for an entire week, in my own private room, with catered meals three times a day and two nurses of my own 24/7. The total bill for that was 1500.00 Euros. Very cheap, but then again, it was the location that mattered. In Athens a three day stay in a hospital after a regular delivery costs about 3000.00 euros.
For the last week and a half, I have been in bed suffering from a hormonal in balance. I finished a cycle of hormone replacement and it has done wonders for me. Let me tell ya, being off balance has gotta be the worst feeling! It is very difficult to walk straight, makes your head feel very heavy while with other days, it feels like a floating balloon and as far as any long term concentration, forget it! Needless to say that the majority of my time in bed was not very productive <—- never thought I’d ever say that!
When I first moved to Greece, I suffered from a hormonal in balance that was due to the climate, although at the time, I did not know it. The bitter cold we have here during December was just too much for me to bare as I have always been used to warmer weather. Since I had no idea what I was suffering from, I went ahead and told my husband that we needed to see a gynocolgist being that the symptoms appeared to be female. He got information of a doctor from someone he knew and we decided to go.
When we arrived to the doctor’s office that evening, her waiting room was completely full of women standing everywhere, as there were no places left to sit. Once the doctor showed up, all the women began following her as if they were a herd of cattle crowding in for the slaughter. Since this doctor only takes walks ins, each person had to remember who was there prior to their arrival. So the women all sat around discussing the order in which they would be seen. When our turn came, we walked into the doctor’s office and she asked what the problem was. We gave her the symptoms and her quick diagnose was a possible pregnancy. She asked me to go into the examining room, undress and wait for her to examine me. After doing so, I noticed there were no gowns to put on and that in itself made the experience all that more difficult. The room was very tiny and had a thin wall separating it from the waiting room which didn’t give a person much privacy at all. To the left of the examining table was a large glass bowl with what appeared to be medical instruments of some kind being sterilized in fluid. At that point, what ran through my mind were those old movies you see where a woman goes in to have an abortion in a cold, small room with the surgical instruments in a bowl beside the bed. I couldn’t help but wonder what decade this doctor was living in.
In the years that followed, we heard horror stories from others on the way she practiced medicine and felt that her medical license should have been revoked long ago. Sadly, to this day, she still has her practice.