Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Trip to the Doctor (Helen)

I now have first hand experience with the BA medical system. First, let me say how limited this experience is because there is both private and public health care here. Through a reference, I chose private pay, so that is what I will talk about.

I found another new growth on me, which due to my medical history, could not be ignored until I got home. So, I ventured out to the Dermatologist. If anybody in the US has ever tried to see a dermatologist as a new patient, then you know how long that takes. Here it only took one day. The doctor’s name is Chouella; he owns the practice and is a 3rd generation dermatologist with an excellent reputation and a very nice office about one block from me.

I walked over with my Spanish script in hand to make an appointment, and was given one for the next afternoon. I asked “cuanto cuesta” and was told that I could see Dr. Chouella for 300 pesos or one of his associates for 42 pesos! I laughed out loud. I saw Dr. Chouella. The office reminded me of doctor’s offices when I was a kid. Wooden floors, a little changing area in the corner of the room with an accordion screen, the physician’s desk in the same room as the examining room, and wooden cabinets with instruments in sight. Very little automation, receipts for the insurance company are hand written on a receipt pad. No copy machine, only one computer in sight. The reception area was a small dainty desk, with no drawers, taken care of by a multi-tasking young woman. There was an upstairs, however, so I don’t know what sort of equipment could have been hiding up there.

I was his patient for that given time. In other words, there were not three patients stacked up in different little rooms being juggled between lidocaine shots, and who is getting undressed at that moment. Dr. Chouella asked me to put on the paper dress, leaving only my bra and panties. He pointed to the little area behind the screen and stood there waiting for me to come back.

Then I had a complete body check, the requisite lecture on sunscreen, and he said the growth should come off. I did not have to make another appointment, he removed it right away. He asked his assistant to bring him biopsy supplies, and it was him, not the assistant that prepped and numbed the area.

I’ve had lots of things biopsied before, and based on my experience he did a good job. Now comes that part that kinda threw me - he puts my growth in the biopsy container, labels it, and hands it to me. I thought he was showing it to me, but nope, it goes with me to continue on the process. They don’t put it in the insulated lab box by the front door to be picked up by a lab courier; they give it to the patient. So, my next task is to carry it to the lab. I was given the address and told that this pathologist teaches at the medical university and is considered one of the best.

The next day, Ken and I walked to the lab. It’s a little over a mile in a neighborhood that didn’t look all that great to me. This would NOT have been a good day for my purse to be snatched! This is a picture of the building that houses the lab. We rode the antique elevator to the 6th floor – though you can’t be sure because there are no floor indicators in the elevator, or on the wall when you get out of the elevator. We weave our way down the narrow hall to a locked door. We buzz; they let us in. I give my biopsy to a young woman in a small office and am told to come back next week and pick up my results. I ask if she takes credit cards and she says no, just pay when I pick up my results.

The next week I pick up my results, pay 300 pesos, get a typed receipt, and go back to the doctor’s to make my return appointment. Now, I can read the results, which are ok, thank God, so I figure I won’t complete my follow-up, but they insist and say it won’t cost me any more money. I won’t bother with the rest of story – you get the picture.

So, 1000 pesos later, (300 + 400 + 300) two doctors visits, and a trip the lab, I am growth free and healthy. However, since I am a human agar dish, I am growing something else on my hand now. This time I will try the free public health care system which everybody raves about, and report back to you.


Jos said...

Hope everything's ok, Helen!

Ken and Helen said...

For another view of Argentine health care, read Pablo’s blog at D for Disorientation.