Getting medical treatment in France is not hard. Unless you count the language a barrier. Then you’re either in need of a translator (thank heavens for Jaime and Steph) or you search out and find pretty easily, an English speaking Dr. The American Embassy has a whole list, so it’s not too hard.
Typical Doctor's Office sign
However, you will pay lots more. My first visit was to one of those on the Embassy list and the visit cost 70 euros. Next visit was to a local French GP who did a great job for 23 euros. At first Jaime had to come with me, but now Dr. Millot and I can pretty much communicate between English, French and sign language, we get it done. Or at least I think we do.
When spoken to in fairly rapid French, I have a nervous tendency to nod and smile, thus indicating I understand. When I absolutely do not. I am trying not to do this. After totally missing some fairly important information, and having to ask my daughter to call back and get clarification, Jaime gently reminded me that nodding at the Dr made her believe all was well. This was a bad thing. I promised not to do it any more. I do this with the children’s teachers, too, when I pick them up from school. I haven’t missed any critical information yet, but if I continue down this ill chosen path, it is only a matter of time.
So, first, the exam room is in the same room as the Drs. desk. It feels really weird and somehow unsanitary, but there it is. No changing room, no drapes or gowns that tie in the front. I’m getting used to it, but it feels, well, just weird!
Next, prescriptions are given to you in duplicate. I have no idea why. The pharmacy does not keep a copy, which I think is strange, but it will print out what meds they sold you on the back of the original. If you don’t have a Carte Vitale (the French Everything is Practically Free Card), you pay full price. If you do have a CV, you need to ask for a special form which they will print out for you. To that form you must attach the bar coded stickers from each box of your prescriptions if you want to get reimbursed. Never throw out a box. Annoying as hell. But doesn’t apply to me as I do not have a CV. At least not yet. I may be getting one soon. And that is GOOD news!
Lab work and x-rays: when was the last time you actually held your own x-rays? Well here, if you have x-rays taken, you are the keeper of the actual films. It feels illegal. Your films will be read on the spot by a radiologist who will explain them to you. Again, in French, most likely. You will then take your films to your Dr who will look at them and give them back to you to keep. Do you know how big those suckers are?? I keep mine behind the bookcase – the only spot with enough height to support them.
You will be given 2 copies of any bloodwork you have done. One you will give to the Dr and one you can keep. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen my official bloodwork in the USA.
All in all, it’s a fairly impressive system. I do find myself pining for my Portland Internist and some good old American medicines like NyQuil and antibiotics with names I know and love, but I tell myself I am adjusting.
They do have one VERY cool thing – it’s called SOS Medecins – Doctors who will come to your house if you call them. Great for evenings and weekends. And not expensive!!
Secretly though? I think American drugs are better. Stronger, faster, and real-er. When you ask for advice on, say cough medicine, the French pharmacist is likely to try and slip you something homeopathic when clearly you need the real deal. No American pharmacist would think of doing such a thing!