Saturday, January 09, 2010

Saturday, January 9th, 2010:
Healthcare in Malmö, Sweden -
my foot!

What I think:

Happy New Year. May 2010 bring you lots of attractive things with elaborate frilly edges and modern, but artistically understated, motifs.

With the continued hub-bub about so-called "socialized" (UK: socialised) healthcare in the US, I thought I'd share my recent nightmarish experience here in Sweden.

About 15 months ago, I posted about how I broke some small bones in my right foot, in a very Rock 'n' Roll kind of way. At the time, I wasn't given any kind of treatment, and no X-rays were taken. The doctor I saw just felt my foot, established where bones were broken, and sent me on my merry way, telling me to try to walk on it as soon as possible.

I have since heard from others that more should have been done - maybe an X-ray to confirm her diagnosis, and possibly some kind of brace. At least a pair of crutches would have been nice.

In any case, time went by, and my foot eventually healed. I would get occasional discomfort, but nothing severe or long-lasting. Until about six weeks ago. I started getting pain again, and it seemed to be here to stay - and it was getting progressively worse. I've developed a bit of a limp; if I walk how I'm naturally supposed to, I'm in pain, so I often walk on the outer side of my foot. I look like a little criminal.

So, yesterday, I decided to do something about it. This is where my nightmare begins.

At about a quarter-past two, I rang a clinic here in Malmö, to see if I could arrange an appointment. I waited in the queue for five long minutes before I was answered. When I finally got through, I asked the lady on the line if she spoke English (contrary to popular belief, not everyone in Sweden speaks English). She said that she did.

This lady was annoyingly friendly on the phone. When I started explaining my problem, she interrupted me to ask me for my Personnummer (person number - Sweden's social security number). The rest of the conversation went like this:

Her: "I see you're registered in Stattena [an area of Helsingborg]."
Me: "Yes, I moved to Malmö in March."
Her: "Ah. Well you'll have to register here before we see you."
Me: "OK, so should I come in and fill in a form, and make an appointment after that?"
Her: "Well, what's your problem, exactly?"

I gave her a brief version of the story, and told her that I'm now pretty much in constant pain when I walk. Then she said, "Well, there's an appointment slot open for three o'clock."
Me: "That's in about half an hour!"
Her: "Yes. Just ask for the registration form when you get to reception."

I had been looking forward to a nice long wait of at least a few weeks to relish my delicious agony a while longer, but in one fell swoop, she completely ruined it. The nerve of that irritatingly polite woman.

About fifteen minutes minutes later, I got on my bike and cycled to the clinic (the first time I ever cycled when there was snow on the ground - it's pretty common here; looky here ->). I got there at about five-to, and checked in at reception.

I was given a very long and complicated form to fill in. It required all of the following information:
- My name (first and last),
- My address, including my post code,
- My Personnummer - all twelve digits, with a dash after the eighth digit (how complicated is that!?)
- Then I had to spend time writing down my signature (something that takes so much focus and concentration that my tongue automatically sticks out the side of my mouth), and the date (do I look like a calendar, or what?).

I just wanted someone to look at my foot; I didn't expect all this bureaucracy. Jeez.

I handed in the form, and then I had to pay for my visit. I was charged 200 Kronor (about US$28.30 / CAN$29.20 / UK £17.65 / €19.65)!! Highway robbery, or what!?

I sat in the waiting room for almost ten whole minutes before the doctor came to get me. He shook my hand and introduced himself as "Eric". Umm... Eric? That didn't sound very professional to me.

In the examination room, Eric asked me loads of boringly relevant questions in an aggravatingly affable manner. He looked at my foot, pressed around a bit, and said that if it happened 15 months ago, the bones will definitely have healed. But he was a bit surprised that an X-ray wasn't taken at the time, just to double-check that it wasn't more serious.

He said he suspected that a nerve was irritated, and that I should try using a padded insert in my boot (available from any sports store), to take the weight off the troubled area. He also prescribed a two-week course of anti-inflammatory tablets, and booked an X-ray for me, so that my problem would be properly documented, just in case I need to go down the route of orthopedic surgery later on. It was an open booking, meaning that I could go for my X-ray any time they're open, at my convenience. Well, that's something good, at least.

Eric said that I should let him know how things go after a few weeks. OK.

I went to the Apoteket nearby to get my prescription of anti-inflammatory tablets. I handed over my Swedish ID, and the cheerful woman behind the desk tapped in my Personnummer and got my prescription from the online system. Paper prescriptions are quickly becoming obsolete here in Sweden (if they still exist at all). My pills cost me a whopping 160 Kronor (about US$22.60 / CAN$23.35 / UK £14.10 / €15.70)! This was costing me a fortune.

I went to a sports store (something I would never normally do), and asked for a "pelotte", which is the little pad I was supposed to put in my boot. I'd never heard of it, but they knew exactly what it was. There goes another 100 Kronor (about US$14.15 / CAN$14.60 / UK £8.85 / €9.80).

I got home, placed my pelotte, popped my pill, and pondered my plight. Since the time I picked up the phone, I'd wasted a total of two whole hours of my life, and spent a gigantic 440 Kronor (about US$62.25 / CAN$64.20 / UK £38.85 / €43.20), just to get something done about my foot.

I think it's totally unacceptable that this type of thing is allowed to happen in any society. More should be done to warn innocent people of the dangers that Rock 'n' Roll can bring to their feet, especially in this day and age. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

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Blogger Magnus said...

and the moral of this story kids are: Stay sober on stage!

3:28 pm  
Blogger Miss Kitten said...

People love to criticize the medical establishment here but I've never had anything to complain about (apart from that one greenhorn nurse who couldn't seem to find the vein in my arm). It's nice knowing I can see a doctor at my local vårdcentral that very same day if I need to. Additionally they've always been very accommodating when it comes my medical needs (i.e.: whining):

"Doctor, I have headaches."

Here, have some painkillers.

"Well..gee, thanks. Say, I can't sleep either."

Sleeping pills, coming right up.

Oh bless.

9:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are a freaking legend Mark.


1:02 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our Founding Fathers envisioned a country where her citizens were endowed by certain inalienable rights. Among them are the Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The health care legislation currently being proposed drastically reduces the liberties of the citizens of the United States and I believe that "mandating" citizens to purchase health care or be subjected to fines & imprisonment will be found unconstitutional.

The US government was established with limited power to protect her citizens from the tyranny they experienced under monarchy rule. The US government is, I believe, overstepping the bounds set forth for it by our Constitution. The power they are trying to exercise belongs with the states, not at the federal government.

Many of us who oppose the health care reforms being proposed believe that it will not fix any of the problems it claims to be fixing and is instead a power grab by the liberal extremists running our country.

A majority of Americans believe in a free-market economy with limited government involvement. The health care bill will destroy the health care free-market system in the US and will have a drastic affect on the entire economy. To pay for this program, US taxes will have to be raised, thus limiting the funding that drives our economy.

The US economy is not designed to work as the Sweden economy is so socialized medicine will not work here.

9:17 am  
Blogger Mark Base said...

Magnus: Get real.

Kitten: I have no complaints about the healthcare here either.

Moozey: You're fab!

Paul: Thanks for your comment. It's nice to get an articulate remark from a right-winger. I will not pretend to know any of the issues faced by Americans, and actually consider myself fairly apolitical. I guess, however, that my nature makes me lean more towards the left - as does the fact that I've lived in three countries where free or affordable healthcare is a given.

I could go through your comment and question some of the points you make, but I can't honestly say that I have enough knowledge of all the facts; after all, you're an American in America, and I'm a British-Canadian in Sweden. Besides, this is hardly the forum for any kind of debate.

But I wanted to thank you for taking the time to write your comment anyway.

10:23 am  
Anonymous Shark99 said...

America is the greatest place on earth because we can have guns and sue people. We can get really fat and then blame it on McDonalds. We also make movies that cost a billion dollars and have entire channels on TV devoted to somebody tossing a football instead of kicking it. God bless America! I'm weeping, weeping because I get so emotional.

9:32 pm  
Blogger Miss Kitten said...

Well, one of the relevant problems that Americans like me (that is, those with medical conditions who need regular medical care and medication) face is the "pre-existing medical condition" clause. What kind of backward system denies coverage to the ones need it most? One more interested in making money that in helping people, evidently. What would the pro-free market economists suggest we do when we're denied insurance coverage? Go without? Lie down and die ultimately?

It's highly inappropriate to try to and guess what the founding fathers would have wanted with regards to health care since the whole idea would have been totally unheard of to them. Granted, they did want US citizens to be happy. For me, as well as countless Americans, being healthy is a big part of being happy.

Sorry for hijacking your comment section, Mark.

11:43 pm  
Blogger Mark Base said...

To be honest, I'm rather glad you did. It's highly relevant (and interesting).

Are there any other Yanks with views on this? Please feel free!

12:27 am  
Anonymous Shark99 said...

On a more serious note, yes I can be serious at times. One of my friends was in a car accident. The first day alone in the hospital cost him $200,000 dollars, and he's been out for months now, in and out of hospitals and doctor visits. The person who ran him over has a liability insurance of only $20,000. Now my friend is going to have to sue the person who ran him over to take all his assets, car, house, everything, just to pay his medical bills. Two lives are ruined over this, not to mention the suffering of the families. It's a reality that people go bankrupt in this country because they cannot afford medical care. All these hard-nosed conservatives would probably be more sympathetic if they were the ones that lost their Cadillac health plans, as so many people do. But of course, they probably have so much money saved up, that a $1 million dollar hospital visit is nothing, finding a parking space for their Maybach is a more pressing concern. I don't know what the solution is, but every American family is just one serious illness or accident away from bankruptcy and that's a fact. If you don't believe so, tell me again when you suffer a serious illness or acccident and your insurance company dumps you.

4:19 pm  
Blogger Mark Base said...

Thanks, Shark.

This is the kind of thing that the rest of the "universally insured" world hears about - at least from my experience. Most people find it hard to believe that there's so much opposition to allowing every citizen the right to free (or at least affordable) medical care.

The latest "smear" I've heard about it is that doctors' salaries are capped in these countries. This is simply not true; doctors enjoy nice big incomes in Canada, Britain, and Sweden.

But - again - I welcome all views from both sides of the debate... As an outsider, I find it fascinating; a bit like rubber-necking at a car wreck - continuously.

4:47 pm  
Blogger SwedishJenn said...

Damn. I came here because you visited my blog and boy am I dissapointed. Besides never coming here again today and choosing to only read the next 10 entries like right now, I vow to only come here once a day (maybe twice) and will also only subscribe to your blog once. And furthermore, when an email arrives in my inbox to say you wrote a new post, I'm going to take two long breaths before I read it. Take that Mark! Oh and I hope your foot gets better!!!

6:07 pm  
Anonymous franko said...

you looked like a criminal before had your broken foot!
(and still you can't speak Swedish - shame on you)

9:54 pm  
Blogger Michele said...

Hi Mark. I'm an American living in Norway, so now have views of two different systems; there are, of course, positives and negatives to each. IMO there are not enough specialists (i.e. gynecologists [British = gynaecologists]) or hospitals in Norway, which does limit choice and creates long waits for some services. Also, I find it difficult to get good information from my doctors/surgeons. BUT, these inconveniences are far outweighed by incredible, low-cost access to my GP and the excellent care one gets when one is finally admitted to a hospital. Oh, and the glorious lack of forms and endless hassles with an insurance company re: what services are covered or not.

I don't understand how some Americans can describe the healthcare system there as one based on a free market when what really exists is an employer-subsidized system that often allows very little choice to individual employees, locks people into jobs they might otherwise leave, and seriously limits the entrepreneurial spirit that is key to a dynamic economy. I am starting my own business here in Norway and I can do that because I don't worry about having to pay for health insurance.

So, in sum, I am more satisfied and feel more secure with the Norwegian system. And I'm very willing to pay higher taxes for that.

1:42 pm  
Blogger Simone said...

Wow. That whole thing really sucked. I hope they don't bring your creepy socialist medicine to America like they've been threatening. I'd much rather pay over $300 a month for them to not have a hospital I can visit when out of state causing me to have to pay out of pocket, then have them not reimburse me for my $255 visit for my stomach ache for which I was advised to take over the counter medication. You know when you pay that much for something, it must be good. And I'm from Australia where I had a cyst removed for a grand total of $33AUD, INCLUDING my anti-biotic and it was just so cheap that I never trusted my treatment and even though that was two years ago, I am certain an infection is imminent. How could it not be for that price?

5:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I've never lived long enough in the States to get a glimpse of their healthcare system, I can't tell whether your post is sarcastic.

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