Sometimes I am greatly amazed by little things in Turkey’s healthcare system. Like the fancy machines. You name it. Turks have it. Lots of lights and shiny metals. And the pharmacies. Sure, you need a prescription for some things, but there’s a lot of good stuff you can get without it. Not to sound like an abuser. It’s just, if you know what you need, and your insurance isn’t going to make a difference, why not?
I have been in more hospitals in the past 2.5 years than I ever have since birth. It’s rather amazing at first blush. In reality though, most doctors’ appointments take place at the hospitals. Some doctors do have private offices. But for the most part, if you need to see your doctor, you are going to the hospital.
Between my husband and me, there’s been eye specialists, diabetes specialists, heart specialists, gynecologists, obstetricians, dentists, dental specialists, dermatologists and emergency services. Rheumatologists, no. No rheumatologists. They are the same as in the States. If you want to see one, you need to make an appointment many months in advance! For us, someone is at the hospital at least twice a month. That doesn’t even count visiting others or trips to the hospitals in the States.
Some of the things that I am now used to seeing here, still make me take notice. Like the hoards of people. No one goes to the doctor without taking someone along. Often the entire extended family will show up. Or so it seems.
And the dim lights or no lights. I appreciate they are saving energy. It just strikes me every time though.
But more often, I am flabbergasted.
Pick a number. Wait to be called. Go to the desk to sign in and pay. Yeah right. Pick a number. Wait to be called. Go to the desk only to be pushed, shoved, and mobbed by people whose number have not been called and maybe by a few who are just curious.
Last week I waited in 8 lines, after seeing the doctor. One to get a number for blood work. One to get the blood work. One for a breathing test. Again for those results. One for a number for an EKG. One for the EKG. One for a number for an x-ray. And then one for the x-ray. Seriously! There were only 50 people in front of me for the x-ray. Again, not joking. So I left and headed to my husband’s university, looking to get the x-ray done there. Since school was out for the summer, there was no line. And frankly, I am a little impressed that they have all these machines too. But I still waited. The technician was doing a full body scan.
Total time – 4.5 hours. Having called ahead to question about the appointment we were simply told there would be blood work.
Privacy. Forget about it! While you are in with a doctor, numerous people will open the door with a variety of questions. None of them are medical professionals. They are usually patients who are supposed to be waiting in line or a loved one of the patient who lost their way because they went out for tea. I have literally been in a doctor’s office at Parliament. Doctor, assistant, salesperson, and friend hanging out drinking tea. Patient comes in. Goes behind a screen. No one leaves the office.
Some of my greatest concerns come from the lack of care and/or knowledge about cleanliness.
For example, it is very rare to see antibacterial soap dispensers for use by the general public. It is almost as rare to see them for use by the doctors.
It also completely grosses me out that people are touching everything and coughing everywhere. This may sound the same as in the States, but with the numbers of people on any given day just standing around in Ankara hospitals, it really is a huge difference. And in the States, people don’t feel the need to touch total strangers.
The fancy machines at the eye doctor are some of the worst when it comes to hygiene! On each visit, you will use at least 3 or 4 machines. So you are sitting your chin down on something and leaning your forehead against something else. Keep in mind, they are pushing patients through as if you are on a conveyor belt. The chin piece often has a stack of tiny papers, similar to thin post-it notes, to be pulled off for each patient. Neither the Docs, nor the technicians, nor the patients ever do it. The forehead piece is naked. Never wiped down. So last time there was this older guy who was sweating in the heat and smelled of week-old I don’t know what. He was in front of me. Thank God, I don’t leave home without antibacterial wipes. I love the look of surprise on their faces when I wipe down the machine myself. Each time, they are encouraged to stand up and rip off that little piece of paper themselves, as if they had already planned on doing it, and twice, even after I had already done it.
And then there’s blood work. I am told that the use of rubber gloves is relatively new here. I have had blood taken a few times, and each time, I have kept a keen eye. Yes, they change the needle. No, they don’t regularly swab the location with alcohol or anything else.
Last week took the cake. I was getting blood drawn. The line in front of me moved faster than any I had ever seen. Sit down. Rubber strap on arm. Needle. Blood. Next patient. That fast. As I got closer, I noticed that not single patient was swabbed before the needle was inserted. I also noticed that she had not changed gloves once. I saw a lot of people go through the line in front of me. All the same. (Reminded me of the time the person taking blood went out for a smoke break wearing her rubber gloves, and came back with the gloves still on.)
When my turn came, I sat down and then gave my husband “the look.” He asked the young woman to change her gloves. She looked him in the eye and said, “We see 600 patients a day. We don’t have time to change gloves.” Of course I didn’t understand the transaction at the time, or I may have just kicked her stand over and ran in fear. She quickly changed her tone and changed her gloves. As an added bonus, she swabbed my arm too! It was barely noticeable, but she did it! I didn’t have to spend the rest of the day worrying about nasty infectious skin diseases.
I was going to end this post here, but I know someone will likely comment about the differences between public and private hospitals. “Private hospitals are much better.” “Private hospitals have less people.” “Private hospitals are cleaner.” Let me make it clear to my U.S. readers that the difference between the two here is nothing like it is in the States. For instance, I like to go to University hospitals. I believe those doctors are more on the ball because they are teaching, they have to keep up with technology and science. I mean no disregard for those private doctors who do keep up. But generally speaking, I expect more from University docs and usually get more. In Turkey, most university hospitals are public, not private. Private hospitals are full of doctors hoping to make a name for themselves. They do have smaller hoards. They do look cleaner with their fancy curtains, freshly painted walls, and lights! But I have not seen any difference in their techniques. I’ve been to both places. There was no understanding of privacy or attempt to follow higher standards to protect patients from unnecessary illnesses in the private hospitals. The doctors certainly were not more knowledgeable. In fact, those I researched were less likely to have written any texts and less likely to have studied in foreign lands. You do the math.