Seven months after moving to Dublin I had my first experience with local healthcare and it was … interesting.
Two weeks ago I got a new tattoo and everything was healing fine until yesterday morning when I woke up and it was burning and itchy and the outline was raised and puffy. I waited a day to see if it was just a fluke but this morning it was even worse. I took a picture and sent it to my tattoo studio who said I should get a cream called Fucidin at the pharmacy. To me that says I can just walk in and pick it up (like Neosporin, which I haven’t seen BTW). Well … not so much.
Turns out it’s an antibiotic so it’s a controlled substance. The pharmacist told me I’d have to have a prescription from a doctor. I explained that I am an expat and don’t have a doctor. I was seriously ready to cry. Her answer? “Oh, we have a ton of walk-in clinics where you can just go and get a prescription really quick. In fact, there’s one right down the road.” My experience with walk-in clinics goes back to Kaiser in the mid-to-late 1980s and that was pretty terrible, but faced with no other choice, I gathered my courage and marched down the road to the little red building that looks like maybe it might be abandoned. The gate on the window was pulled down so it looked closed, but there was a handwritten note on the door saying it was open and to come in. I did and … um. The waiting room was white walls, four chairs, and three notes taped to the wall. The first said all visits were €60 cash/cheque only, the second said the reception was monitored by CCTV and the doctor would be with me soon, and the third was the hours the clinic was open. Honestly, there was nothing about the room that said I was in the year 2016. I could have just as easily been transported back to 1977, the year I was born.
I sat there for about ten minutes and as I was getting ready to leave, the door opened and an older, tall, white-haired gentleman welcomes me to the back which is even more ancient than the waiting room. I had no idea what the protocol was and since the pharmacist had said I could quickly get a prescription I figured it was as simple as me telling him what I needed and him sending me on my way. Not so. He took my full medical history and wrote it out – in pencil – on a pad of paper. There was no computer anywhere in his office. And that little triangle thingy doctors use to test your reflexes? Wood. Very old wood. Finally after ten minutes he asked to see my tattoo. He examined it for a couple of seconds, making sure not to touch it too roughly, and pronounced I had something that I don’t know the name of. He said I needed Fucidin-H (which also has histamine blockers) and he wrote me a prescription. Then he asked me if I was on any other medication and I told him I used to take Lipitor but when I moved to Dublin I couldn’t get my prescription refilled. He filled out another paper form for me to go to the hospital to get my bloodwork done (for free, mind you) and wrote me a prescription in advance of the results. If it turns out my cholesterol is still high (it will be), I can just fill the prescription without having to come back to him for it. Then, he gave me a receipt for my visit. I told him I didn’t have cash on me and asked if he took credit cards (it’s my experience that places will say cash only, but if you don’t have cash, they’ll break out the credit card machine while grumbling about you under their breath). He told me I could come back and pay him. He grabbed another envelope, wrote his name on it, and then told me to slide my payment under the door when I returned. Seriously. THAT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN IN THE U.S.
All told, an hour and a half after I walked into the pharmacy looking for something I assumed would be an over-the-counter ointment I was back home with a prescription, a script for blood work, and maybe a new GP? I’m not even sure about that last part. Is he my doctor now? I don’t even know.