You know, I've always said that the beauty of travelling is that you get to appreciate the things that other countries have that Singapore doesn't (eg. beautiful fall colours, cool weather and low humidity, online shopping at your fingertips, tons of cable channels to surf, etc.), and the things that Singapore have that these other countries do not.
I was reminded of the latter just this past weekend whilst trying to find a doctor to see Dylan for his cough and runny nose.
You see, the low humidity, temperature and rainy weather we have been experiencing of late that herald the start of winter here in New England, have all conspired to make conditions ripe for the cold and flu bugs to rear their ugly head.
And poor Dylan was not spared.
With a persistent cough lasting about 4-5 days, and adding to that, the onset of phlegm in his throat that was starting to make Dylan's coughs sound more like he was gargling, we finally decided that the best way to deal with it once and for all was to bring him to see a doctor. Afterall, with a health centre just a stone's throw away from our home, how difficult could the process be?
So it was on (last) Friday morning that I brought Dylan over to the Riverside Health Centre, only to discover that the centre did not take walk-in patients and that we had to first make an appointment to see the doctor.
The earlist date available: 4 December 2007.
Almost a month away.
Goodness..... by the time Dylan gets to see the doc, he would have either coughed his lungs out or have gotten better by then.
What's the point?!!
Not to be discouraged, we then tried the Harvard Health Services Centre, where we were told that they too did not take walk-ins, and even then, they only entertained patients who were on Harvard Insurance plans.
Notwithstanding that Danielle had Harvard Insurance, Dylan too had to be similarly insured before they would attend to him.
So OK, the first two were strikes.... surely people here in the US of A self-medicate and we should be able to buy some cough mixture of the pharmacy shelves, right? Wrong!
Pharmacies in the US do not stock drugs over the counter for kids below the age of 2 years, and in order to get medicines from the pharmacist, a doctors prescription is required.
Is it just me do you also get the feeling that I've been going round in circles? Strike Three and back to Square One.
Found out after talking to people that here in the US, most people have a 'Primary Care Doctor' which means to say that he is the guy you go to for all your visits.... kinda like the family doctor at home. But unlike the family doctor at home, people here don't walk-in to the clinic whenever they have a fever or cold.... nope, what they do is to call ahead to book an appointment that could be 1-2 days later (or three if its over the weekend) to see the doctor and in the meantime, self-medicate. For urgent needs, people would then go to the hospital's A&E. Hmmmm.... A&E for a high fever, just doesn't sound right to me. In any case, that was what I was told, bring Dylan to the A&E or wait a month for the next appointment.
Most clinics (at least the ones we tried) close over the weekend, so we had to wait till Monday.
Dylan's cough seemed worse on Monday, so we decided to get him over to the hospital A&E.
Thankfully there was one about 30 mins walk away. So I walked him over.... only to be told that (surprise surprise) the A&E dept did not take infants under the age of 2 years and that I had to go to a pediatric clinic instead. WAH LIAO! Got the numbers of two other hospitals from the receptionist and fortunately, one of them did take walk-ins and even had a free slot for Tuesday morning. FINALLY!
Fast forward to Tuesday morning......Rainy weather......Not the cats and dogs type, but the type that was heavy enough to make any trip outdoors a bother..... Had to manoeuvre stroller over kerbs and sidewalks with one hand whilst holding onto umbrella with the other..... Shoes getting wet.... dreadfully wet..... thank God this doc quest will be settled once and for all.... today....
After an hour wait, finally got to see the doc, who also happened to be (I was told) the hospital's Head of Pediatrics. The check-up went pretty smoothly and I was given a prescription for some cough mixture for Dylan.
However, my joy was short-lived when I found out that the hospital did not stock drugs and that I had to bring the prescription to a pharmacy instead, the closest of which was 20 min walk away (in the rain) as the hospital did not have a pharmacy within its premises.
Got to the pharmacy only to be told that the drug prescribed by the pediatrician had since been taken off the shelves.
Somehow the drug companies, pharmacies and hospitals are not talking to one another.
When asked, the pharmacist was not willing to recommend a substitute drug, and advised that with Dylan being an infant and all (below 2 years..... what is it with this magic number??!!!), the best was for me to go back to get another prescription from the doctor. DOUBLE WAH LIAO!
Rather than walk back, I called the pediatric clinic and was told that the next earliest slot to see the doctor was a week away, and in the meantime (and this is where I really think that this is all a joke), the nurse advised that I take the following steps: a) humidify the room, b) give him lots of fluids and c) keep him in the bath a little longer so that the steam would soothe his nasal passages.
And so with that all-to-valuable piece of advice, this experience for me had truly returned to Square One.
After walking back and forth across Cambridge between health centres, calling up clinics trying to make appointments, and trodding between the hospital and pharmacy in the rain, this rather ridiculous attempt to treat Dylan's cough ended with a simple advice over the phone of a home remedy that we knew of in the first place!!!
And so, the thing I appreciate Singapore has that other countries (read: USA) does not have: A user-friendly, efficient and relatively responsive health care system. No bullshit like what they have here in the US.