Monday, May 19, 2008

A Visit to Ajou University Hospital

Suwon has a University Hospital and when I came over for to South Korea for the first time, Hellena took me to visit. Ajou University Hospital has an International Clinic and the doctors speak English. She also took me to the Emergency Department and I was impressed with how it resembled it's counterpart back in the U.S. Little did I know that I would be visiting during our stay in Korea.

Curt (hubby) has been fighting a cold he caught in Jeju and for the past two weeks it has been steadily getting worse. I went to maedeup class and was explaining the situation to my Korean friend, Hannah. She really thought he should see a doctor and I agreed. I decided to leave class early and headed back to Suwon. I met Curt at a local pizza joint and after filling his belly, I informed him that we were going to the hospital and I wasn't taking no for an answer.

There are clinics and hospitals all over our neighborhood and we struck out to find one. Hannah had given me the Korean word for hospital and all we could find was a women's clinic. I finally asked so middle school kids and only one spoke English. He tried to find us one and failed.

So we walked back to Home Plus where you know you can find a taxi and off we went to Ajou. I had a business card from the hospital so I gave that to the driver. Traffic was awful but we still got there in less than a half hour. He dropped us off at the main entrance. We walked in and found the International Clinic which was closed so back to the Information Desk we went. They really didn't understand English but I kept repeating "Emergency Room." Finally, one of them understood and off we went.

He brought us into the actual Emergency Room NOT the entrance or registration area. We stood there for a while and I thought someone would kick us out like they would have in the U.S. but we were basically ignored. I finally went up to a nurse and asked her where registration was. She took us to the main lobby in the Emergency Department and we were immediately waited on.

They sat Curt down and did the vitals while another Korean came up to me with a note in English that said that the total could be 80,000 WON ($80 US) and if that was okay. It sure was and I really didn't believe it would be that cheap. Next a grandfather came over to me with his grandson and the grandson was reaching out for me. Well, you think I would pass up an opportunity like this? I reached for the toddler and he went willingly into my arms. All of the sudden the whole family was with me; mom, dad, grandpa and grandma. They were so excited that I was holding him. He was sure a cutie but after a few minutes, he wanted down so I set him down. I was thrilled. The family was thrilled. The only one not thrilled was Curt. He couldn't believe I had managed to hold a baby in less than five minutes of arriving.

Next a very young looking Korean man and let me say he looked about 16 and not shaving yet, came and took us into the exam room. His English was excellent. The picture above is the exam room. He asked Curt all kinds of questions, listened to his breath tones, looked into his throat... I thought he couldn't possible be a doctor so I asked him if he was. He smiled and said he was. I told him that I was just shocked that we were able to see a doctor so quickly. It's just not like that in the U.S. Curt was really mad at me and felt I had insulted the doctor. I never meant to do that and I hope he didn't take it that way.

The doctor asked if he wanted an I.V. or shot or pills. Curt said that pills would be fine. He led us out of the exam room to wait in the waiting area while he conferred with the other doctors. There were a ton of kids in the waiting area. It looked more like a pediatric clinic. A little boy a few seats away from us was trying to sleep in the chair while dangling an I.V. line. He looked so sick and miserable. Where was a bed for him, I wondered?

It was only a few minutes when the doctor came back and said that since Curt had been ill so long, they wanted a chest x-ray so off he went. I made a lot of new friends while waiting for Curt. The kids were as interested in me as I was in them. Some were brave enough to come close but most enjoyed just walking by.

Curt came back and we waited for the results of the x-ray. The cart above was just sitting in the waiting area. A nurse came up and brought it over to an older woman. She proceeded to put an I.V. line in her just like that in the waiting room with people all around. I also saw a nurse draw blood in the same manner. No private room, no privacy whatsoever. There is no way I could have done that. I need my privacy when someone is trying to stick a needle in me.

The little sick boy was sitting all alone for a while when his mom came over with some oral medication. You could tell he wanted no part of it. She squirted the medicine into his mouth along with some water to wash it down. It came up a few minutes later when he vomited all over the floor. We quickly changed seats and the little boy disappeared. A janitor came a few minutes later and mopped it up but then proceeded to mop the whole waiting room with the dirty water. I thought that was gross but now I see why they think the floor is so filthy. Yuck!

The doctor came back and said that the x-ray was clear but he was going to put him on some medication and we would need to wait for that. While we were waiting, he said we could pay our bill. When Curt had first registered, they had taken his Alien Registration Card which would be returned upon the bill being paid so he was anxious to get that back. The total bill which included the ER visit, x-ray and prescriptions was 69,310 WON ($70 US). I was shocked.

Here are the prescriptions he got. It took about 15 minutes. We were out of the hospital in less than two hours. This is something that has NEVER happened to me in the U.S. I also cannot believe how cheap it was. When I told my Korean yoga buddy about this morning, he was upset we went there. He said it was very expensive and we could have gotten out for less than 20,000 WON ($20 US) if we had been able to go to a local hospital.
I've never experienced socialized medicine firsthand until now but I know a lot of Americans are against it. I'm really wondering why. It seems so much more efficient than the U.S. and A LOT cheaper. I have become a big fan of this type of medicine. We got excellent care at an excellent price.

This is the medicine guide we were given. We were wondering what some of the medication was for but I can tell you he is feeling A LOT better today. I know he wasn't happy with me but I think now he feels it was the right decision. Men! He said I was doing it for a blog entry. I'm glad he is feeling better.

So don't be afraid to go to the hospital in South Korea. This certainly makes me never want to visit one in the U.S. any time soon.


CreekHiker said...

Doing it for the blog!!! LOL!!! Curt is too funny!!!

My cousin was injured on a moped in Greece and actually needed surgery. She says it was her best hospital ever and if she could "plan" to be sick, she would do it there. I think you're both onto something!

You've been tagged!!!! You must post 6 random things!

Becky said...

Holly: You know Curt. He did not want to go but he is feeling SO much better. Of course, he would never admit it might be the pills he received.

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