Friday, December 12, 2008

on doctors

I don't know if you've heard, but there's a crisis of sorts for doctors in this country. The problem isn't that there aren't enough doctors, it's that they only want to work in major metropolitan areas. That means that there are hundreds of small communities in France that have no local doctors and the inhabitants are forced to drive far from home to see a doctor, and while these communities often have nurses who make house calls, there are only so many things they can do to provide medical assistance.

Now, I knew this was true for small villages, but I never imagined that we would have the same problem here in Tiny Town! We are pretty much self-sufficient here, with two groceries, quite a few shops and services, and we find ourselves "having" to go to Troyes less and less for specific things. Don't get me wrong - Tiny Town has just about everything except, you know, entertainment, unless you count the bar down the street, so it's not perfect, but we get along alright. But it turns out that yes, we are having our own doctor crisis here in Tiny Town, which actually affects several communities in the area as well that rely on Tiny Town for their services, too.

When we moved to Tiny Town three years ago, one of us needed to see a doctor, so I did the sensible thing and chose the first name out of the phone book. Generally speaking, we were happy enough with Dr. A that we had him declared as our médecin traitant (pretty much the same as a primary care physician in the States, plus we receive a larger reimbursement when we see our médecin traitant than when we see another doctor). Soon, little things started bothering me: I always felt super rushed during an appointment with him, as if he was in a huge hurry (maybe typical in the States but not really here in France), and his hours left something to be desired. He only takes appointments in the mornings, and in the afternoons it's first come first served. Sounds nice, but we've waited upwards of two hours - not fun when you're sick. This is especially hard when you have an urgent situation and can't get an appointment in the morning. More than once, Stéph has gone to work sick when he should have stayed home because he couldn't stand the idea of sitting in the waiting room for hours on end to get the required doctor's note for his sick day.

During the course of my pregnancy, I never had a need to visit Dr. A, and if Stéph really needed to see a doctor on short notice and couldn't get in to see Dr. A, we called Dr. H, who works in the same building and always seems to have room in his schedule. Dr. H isn't exactly what you would call extroverted, but he seems like a good doctor and we've never had to wait long to see him. We started to wonder if we hadn't chosen the wrong doctor.

I've been wondering if it wouldn't be a bad a idea to change our médecin traitant for a while, but recent events have convinced me that it would be a good idea. First, when I got home from the maternity, I had to have daily shots for three weeks, so we had someone from the local nurse's office come by the house every morning (we paid a slightly higher fee - maybe around 40€ out of pocket in total? - but most of that was reimbursed). When we mentioned that Dr. A was our médecin traitant, one of them told us that in the last year he's cut his office hours in half because of other obligations and he's been trying to hire a doctor to share his office with him, but he can't find one that would be willing to work "in the country." Next, I made an appointment with Dr. A for Fry's first month appointment (since we don't have a pediatrician here in Tiny Town), and the soonest appointment available was two weeks out. Then, we finally had his appointment this week and the doctor seemed so rushed that I felt like we were being pushed out the door. When I called his office an hour later to clarify something he suggested during the appointment, I had barely said my name before he cut me off and said, "Look, can you call me back after 3:00?" and nearly hung up on me.

The final nail in the coffin is that I've had some kind of weird sickness happening this week. I started breaking out in a rash on Monday in the same area as where I had my injections, and they only got worse. Wednesday we decided that I'd better have it looked at, and knowing Dr. A would either be unavailable or I'd be forced to wait a couple of hours, I called Dr. H, who had an opening that very morning. He gave me a prescription and told me that if it wasn't better by Friday, I'd have to give him a call. Well, Friday came and it wasn't better, plus I'd been fighting a fever since the day before. He had me come back in that afternoon, put me back on an antibiotic and sent me off to have a blood test, and then we chatted about random stuff for another five minutes or so. We still don't know what exactly is wrong with me (I'm not going into great detail here in order to keep this already long post from gaining epic proportions), but I like Dr. H's method of actually admitting that he'd have to consult a colleague because my symptoms are weird and sending me for a test instead of jumping to conclusions, which is what Dr. A did when I told him the story of my headaches in the maternity.

For now, Stéph is hesitant to change primary doctors, but if you ask me, Dr. A won't even notice, especially since we didn't see him for nearly a year and he hardly batted an eye when we saw him this week. I think we'll have to make a decision soon, though, with Fry's monthly appointments, my mystery illness, and especially our peace of mind.

PS: Fry is in perfect health, by the way! At five weeks, he weighed in at 5.3 kilos (11 lbs, 11 oz) and was 57 cm (22.44 inches) long! He's already started to outgrow some of his smaller three month sized clothes, but part of that is because we use cloth diapers, which make his butt huge!

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