Expat problem #2: Being sick as an expat and understanding the local approach

I have been in a rut for a couple of weeks and it all began when I got sick for the first time living in Qatar. Needless to say, it is never easy being in a foreign country and needing to see a doctor. Without questioning, you take the advice of your newly made friends and go see their recommended doctor and hope that their doctor understands you, the illness and your approach of how to deal with it. To no surprise, this all varies from country to country.

In Norway, having no friends initially, I was assigned to a doctor by the area in which we lived in. The doctor spoke barely any English, so I of course asked to be switched to another doctor as soon as possible. The next doctor I was assigned to was alright, but his approach to illnesses was a bit more holistic than what I was used to. This turned out to be a common Scandinavian thing, where if you aren’t seriously sick, allow the virus to take its course without any medications. Which in hindsight is better I now believe, but I was used to always being prescribed something when visiting a doctor in America. Well, maybe not for a physical though. That was just a common yearly routine check we did in America. But, both in Norway and Denmark, the doctors’ questioned us. Why would we want to take an annual physical if we felt normal? Again, coming from America, this was the norm for us to have an annual physical, to possibly prevent anything that we may not be aware of. One doctor did question my husband were we even legal residents, potentially thinking that we were just abusing the socialized medicine system!

Thinking back to our years in Scandinavia, even throughout my pregnancy, my doctor saw me at around 12 weeks and then said that we would see each other possibly when the baby comes. I was shocked and referred to the pregnancy bible What to Expect When You Are Expecting that I should be seeing him monthly. Why bother though if there aren’t any alarms? At the end of my pregnancy, he wasn’t even the one to deliver my son because I didn’t have any complications. I ended up seeing whichever midwife was on duty at the time. Completely different approaches, not necessarily wrong and now just have to remind myself that they are the ones who have gone through medical school, not I!

All that said, I became quite comfortable with the Scandinavian socialized medicine systems and use that as my reference point when exploring the system here in Doha. One of my last visits here resulted in bit of a run around for a very simple case of conjunctivitis. I admit, it was not an emergency, but all I needed was a doctor to see me for maybe two minutes and prescribe the antibiotics. After leaving the ER, I ended up at another hospital, where I was referred to an ophthalmologist. Two days later, I saw him and he even apologized for the system handling my case the way they did. Again, I admit, it was a minor issue, but when I had conjunctivitis in Denmark, I would be able to simply call my doctor and be prescribed the medication over the phone. Actually, at any time I could either phone or email the doctors, make appointments online and in case of an emergency, if it wasn’t life threatening, I could just call in, explain the situation and either be prescribed over the system what I needed or be told to come into the ER in the next hour or two. This avoided chaos in the ER waiting room and waiting time to see a doctor if unnecessary. For once, I missed Denmark.

But I am here in Doha, back to loving life and staying healthy!

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Brigita

A wife, a mother, an expat...

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