This is going to be one of the posts I do about navigating every day life here in Malaysia. No interesting pictures for you but if you are interested in how systems are different outside of the US you might enjoy reading this.
Let me begin by telling you that I LOVE my doctor in Austin. LOVE her, we know each other very well by this point. She got me through some pretty stressful things including my first pregnancy. I can call her office and talk to the nursing staff, they know who I am when I talk to them and will quickly refer anything important the doctor and get back to me quickly. This kind of personal care is hard to find and I was very, very nervous about leaving it. This is especially true depending on how long we are her and if we decide to have another baby (to the Grandparents: this is still under consideration, no decisions have been made yet…I promise there is no news yet:). I needed to get a couple of prescriptions filled here in Malaysia, as the supply I brought with me is dwindling.
One of the more frustrating parts of living in Penang is the lack of internet presence that most businesses have. It is a very lucky thing if a business has a website. It is even more lucky if it has been updated within the last two years, I usually give this a 50/50 shot. There is usually a Facebook page but once again I give it 50/50 that it has been updated ever. It is not like the US where you can Google or Yelp anything and find out where it is, how it works, read reviews and possibly make an appointment right then and there. It takes a lot more leg work here. If you are looking for a doctor your best bet it to go to the clinic at one of the private hospitals. There is a forum for expats here that I read, several of the ladies recommended a doctor at Island Hospital. I have no other source of information, so I decided on her and I looked her up on the Hospital’s website and took a chance.
Now when I say take a chance, I mean took a chance that she would be in the office today and seeing patients, not off delivering a baby or something. See the thing is they don’t take appointments. Yup, no appointments, first come first serve. So if the doctor that you want to see is not there, no one is going to call and tell you that and reschedule for you. I am sure you could call before you show up to double check. I have a really hard time finding out information via the phone here. Half the time I can’t get the phone number to work (this is totally on me) and if I do get the number to work, the language barrier over the phone becomes much more difficult. It is a lot of times just easier to go and ask the questions in person. It said her office hours were M-F 8:30 to 5:00, so I went at 8:30.
Now there have been times when my doctor at home runs behind due to an emergency or what not, but generally I get seen within 20 minutes or so of my appointment time. I like appointments, they help me plan my day. I am painfully punctual. If I am late I am incredibly anxious about it. I am the person who is always early. I realized this makes me sound incredibly uptight, but when you grow up with a sibling with Autism, plans and an orderly day become part of you as well. That is not how people work here, a starting time is more of a suggestion really. If you are early you will wait….and wait…I look at this a one of the growing experiences of living abroad. I have a feeling that this is part of the no appointment thing. If you bothered to show up we will see you at some point. They would always be running behind if they waited on appointment times. The down side of this is one has no idea what time the doctor actually gets there, and if you don’t get there early one will be at the back of the line.
I got to the clinic at 8:30, right when it opened and filled out the registration stuff and was still 5th in line to see the doctor. The doctor didn’t get there until 9:30. I didn’t get into see her until 10:30. Not exactly how I wanted to spend my morning, but the hospital has WiFi so it wasn’t so bad. I went in the office and sat down at her desk told her what I needed prescription wise and why. She asked me a few questions about my history and wrote me a script and I was out of there in 10 minutes. No exam, no vitals nothing….It was a little weird. She also told me that my prescriptions are over the counter here, so i just go to the pharmacy now that I have filled them once and tell them what I need. I won’t need to show them a prescription sheet or anything. It really seems to me that one is really in-charge of your own health care for better or worse here. You want a Well Woman check, then you need to request it. I am sure that if I had been having symptoms she would have pushed me a little further, but she seemed to think I had a competent doctor in the US so she wasn’t worried about it. I think I liked her, there was not much of a language barrier at all, which makes things much easier.
After I left her office, I went to the cashier. They filled my prescriptions and then I paid the bill. We have international health insurance here, through Nathan’s company. They way it works is that we pay out of pocket then submit the receipts for reimbursement, once we reach our deductible they will reimburse us 80% . I was a little concerned about this, especially on the prescription side of things. My prescriptions are very expensive in the US, they do not have generic forms and are always in the top tier of the co-pays for meds. My total bill for my doctor’s visit and my 2 prescriptions was 179.00 Ringgits, that equals about $40.00 USD. Holy guacamole the medical industry in the US is expensive. $40.00 you guys! Imagine affordable health care that everyone can afford, because it is a necessity for everyone’s quality of life. It does exist, I have now seen it first hand.
So just like everything here, it is like the US until it’s not, then it is very different.