Call Me A Doctor!

(WARNING: This is not the post I promised yesterday)

Navigating the medical world can be tricky enough in the place where you were born an raised. Although at home you probably have a regular GP, medical insurance or government subsidy, and mummy or daddy to take care of you.

Not so when you are an expat. Particularly not so when you are fresh off the boat. Lifting up your roots and replanting them somewhere else is a massive challenge. You ask all sorts of questions with each new location: how do I open a bank account, do I need to pay tax, does my visa expire, what suburbs are safe, which are the best schools. I asked many of those when moving to Manila – albeit most of those went into the google bot. Now I am discovering how to admit oneself to a medical institution and how to make an appointment with a GP in Manila.

As it transpires, most General Practitioners have their practices in a medical center or hospital. Such is the case with Makati Med, where I am going at 2pm, and St Lukes Medical Center in Quezon City and Global City. This is actually a good thing as one number will get you to a range of specialists and emergency services. So far everyone I have spoken to by phone has been more than happy to explain the process (and with a throat infection communication was going to be interesting).

After calling the general line the call center operator asked me who I needed to see, but based on my comments gave me the number for an ENT instead of a GP. They seem to have this process pretty streamlined. I then spoke to the ENT directly, Dr Maria Lagos, who gave me the hours of operation (2-6pm). The next task is to get there, find her office and hope the queue isn’t too long. For these little afflictions no appointments are given. People are seen on a first come first served basis.

—LATER—

Now we get to the retrospective part of the blog, where I tell you how things really went.

I cabbed to Makati Med. When I got in the taxi the driver seemed taken aback, “only that far?”

“Yes.” I am an invalid. I’m not walking! It cost me PHP70 to drive three blocks, but it was worth it.

Once there I pulled out my little black book where I had written the location of Dr Maria Lagos’ clinic. Makati Med is well sign posted, so it was easy to wind my way through the warren to room 250.

Makati Med resembles the Bureau of Immigration physically, it is full of cubicles and little rooms of miscellaneous people, but the overall experience was very different (one day I will tell you about getting my visa so you can appreciate just how complicated and back to front the process is). Like seeing the attorney who approved my work visa, doctor’s are kept in rooms within rooms. The hall is the waiting room, the first door is the tiny cubicle of two or three receptionists who huddle in a space made for one. Behind them are the doors to the doctor’s surgery. You form fill and get your name en queue with the secretaries and proceed to wait.

I only had to wait about fifteen minutes, four small cross words, to be seen. Dr Lagos was prompt, thorough and seemed to genuinely care (which made a difference). She took one look and my throat and confirmed what I knew was the horrible truth: tonsillitis for the second time this year. The whole consultation took about ten minutes. I paid PHP700 (NZ20) to the secretary and left with my two page prescription.

I taxied back to Greenbelt to fulfill the script, which came to about PHP1800. A NZ70 experience all up. I then purchased some ice cream and cheap DVDs before heading back for my two day bed rest ahead. Thank goodness my workplace is so understanding!

If you want to know more about getting medical treatment in the Philippines I recommend this blog: http://timotraveling.blogspot.com/2012/06/medical-care-in-philippines-doctors-and.html. He gives a really great overview. The post itself is only about a year old, so pricing is pretty accurate.

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