My bodies reaction to the difference between the high desert climate of my home and the tropical climate of my current abode is to revisit my old friend, walking pneumonia. A bit of a rattle when breathing made me decide it was time to get it treated. New location equals new experiences.
The hospital in town has signage that makes it obvious that most of its clientele is pregnant or bringing in a new papoose – I fit neither category. I presented myself to the reception desk and was given a form to fill out, which I did. A little later a nurse came out and looked at the form. Ten minutes later she came out and took my blood pressure 120/80 and left. A few minutes later she came out again and told me I needed to see a respiratory specialist, “go to the corner, one block to the left and then left again, back a half block”.
The Doctors office was rather worn and had benches inside and outside in the entry way. No frills that the patients need to support. There was a single receptionist and a lot of people waiting. The doctor was due shortly and I was number 11 on the list. I went back out to the benches in the patio and waited. There was an earthquake 2 weeks before and the power was intermittent while repairs to the power grid were made. We were in an off stage so there was no fans on or lights. The office did not appear to have air conditioning even if we had power so the benches in the hall were a good choice anyway since they were the closest to fresh air.
As I awaited my turn I observed the other clients/patients. I was one of the better dressed in shorts, a polo shirt and canvas shoes. Most were in pants, tee shirts and flip flops. It is a commentary on economics not individuals. One lady appeared to be older than I and she had a tattered dress and no shoes. she was so frail I prepared to catch her if she fell in my vicinity. There was one gentleman in what looked like new jeans, nicely polished shoes and a button shirt, two ladies were dressed as if working in an office or about to go out on the town. We seemed to represent a cross section of the populace. I was the only white person in a sea of various shades of brown. I am also a foot taller that most here so I really stand out. Glaringly and grotesquely stand out. So be it. Every person stopped at the desk and gave the receptionist some money as they went out.
My turn with the Doctor eventually came and I found my way back to a nook where he sat behind a small desk with a weak light illuminating his desk. It appeared to be battery energised. He was very nicely dressed and had an open shirt with a gold crucifix. He reminded me of a young Ricky Riccardo (that dates me). He greeted me politely and in perfect english asked me to describe my problem. As I did so he made a few notes and asked a few questions. He then stood up and listened to my chest. As he sat down he said my left lung was clear and I had no breathing sounds in my right lung. He said I had what was commonly called walking pneumonia. He gave me a detailed discussion of what he thought and wrote a prescription for three medications, describing in detail how to take them. He said if my breathing got worse in the next week or if it was not cleared up after the medication was completed to come back and he would send me for a chest x-ray. We parted and as I left I stopped at the desk and paid for the visit. It was 250 pesos, which at the current exchange rate is 5 dollars, yes $5.00.
I took my prescriptions to the pharmacy and got an antibiotic for respiratory infections, an anti-mucolytic to help clear the lungs and a powder to mix with water to help with the throat irritation. The total cost of the three drugs was 1450 pesos. The total cost in Dollars was just under $30.00. No copay, no insurance and no hassle.
In the US I would have waited hours to see the ER doctor and had to pay the $75.00 co-pay up front before they would see me. The visit would have been much more expensive and mounds of paperwork involved. In the US health care is a very big, very profitable enterprise with great expense to the tax payer and some individuals. In the Philippines it is simply a way to fix sick people and keep others healthy.