Saturday, December 02, 2006

Up to His Neck

A few days ago I developed a pain in my shoulder. I've had it before and apart from briefly dabbling with an osteopath a couple of years ago, it's always got better with a couple of days rest. This time though, it persisted.

As I've written before, the UK approach to healthcare is different the one in Korea. I would have made an appointment with my doctor, and probably seen her within a week, but certainly not any sooner than three days from my call. This acts as a considerable disincentive to go to the doctors, as if you're an optimist you believe that by the time your appointment comes you're bound to be feeling better (actually, if you're a pessimist who believes the Universe exists solely to mess you around you'll probably believe this as well). But the promise of an instant diagnosis was too much to pass over, so off we went to the local orthopaedic hospital - no appointment required.

Specialised hospitals are often small - think a couple of small office block floors and you'd get the picture - and there are many of them - so after a five minute walk I was sat down in reception waiting for an X-ray. Five minutes later I'd had two X-rays on my neck - which was already thought to be the source of the problem, and five minutes after that I was seeing an orthopaedic professor who suspected a small spinal disc issue. A few minutes later I was with a neuro-pain specialist who also subscribed to the disc diagnosis, and offered a course of neck injections or physiotherapy to try and address the problem. I opted for the physio - and she laughed because apparently Westerners always do. Perhaps she doesn't realise how little faith we have in our health system - and how it always seems safer to have them do as little as possible? Anyway, by coincidence I used to write software for an orthopaedic company and there was nothing in that experience which made me any more enthusiastic about invasive procedures.

So another five minutes later I'm in the arms of a Korean physiotherapist having my spine heated, straightened, and finally artificially massaged with electrical pads which have left four nice round red patches on my back. But I did feel better. A course of drugs from the pharmacy later, I'm a grand total of 32,500 won worse off - £17.87 - and my Korean family is appalled at the high price I have to pay for this private treatment; if I was treated under the Korean insurance system it would have cost 13,200 won - £7.26. But I'm still stunned - in the UK the three different drugs they put me on would have meant a prescription charge of around £5.90 per drug - which means the UK cost of my drugs alone would have been as much as the entire costs for my X-rays, diagnosis and physiotherapy. Admittedly, the latter items would have been free in the UK, but it would have taken six weeks from start to finish. Total time today? About an hour.

The next day I went for my second physiotherapy session, which cost 12,000 won
(£6.60) for forty minutes, but I was so much better the physiotherapist told me it wasn't necessary to come back unless the problem re-occurred. Meantime, I have to work on my seating posture to gradually correct the disc issue and stop it developing further.

Not that you would wish to, but this is a great place to get sick!

1 comment:

Mosher said...

From where I've been...

Good places to get sick:
Thailand (cheap and superb facilities)
Oz (reciprocal health agreement with UK)
NZ (ditto)
Singapore (same as Thailand)

Bad places to get sick:
Vietnam (the best health care is to fly to Bangkok... I am not kiddind. Too many horror stories)
USA (unless you're rich)

Post a Comment