A morning at the hospital

No, don’t worry, it wasn’t a case of A and E, just an appointment.

But, it is an example of the difference between the French and English systems when it comes to having a routine operation.

My GP (medecin traitant) decided that it was probably time my varicose veins were treated when she noticed what I thought was a long standing bruise on my ankle. (I’ve had  the actual protruding veins for years but as they don’t hurt I’ve learned to live with them).

She sent me to the ‘phlebologue’ to check out my circulation and then to the specialist at the hospital. She (for it is a lady)  doesn’t do veins until the winter and so I was booked in for February 16th with instructions to go and see the anaesthetist a week or so beforehand.

That’s where I was this morning.

The appointment was for 9.45 but the secretary had told me to report to outpatients first so I arrived early. Despite problems with my Carte Vitale, which had refused to allow itself to be updated, (it did this last year and I had to go to the social security centre and queue for ages so that it could be done ‘manually’) lots of papers were shuffled around and stuck into a file I was eventually given a form and directions to find the anaesthetists’ department.

“Go back to the main corridor, turn left and it’s on the second floor. Oh and afterwards you’ll have to go to admissions and book your room.”

The hospital is in the final stages of its rebuild and signs are not totally clear so I steered Bear into the nearest lift,  pressed 2 and crossed my fingers. It was good of him to come with me but he kept protesting that i didn’t know where I was going and got quite nasty when I bit back.

By the time we reached the waiting room with instructions to report to the secretary first, he wasn’t talking to me and sat himself down outside.

Shame, because he missed the chance to ogle the the secretary’s cleavage. Fortunately for her the heating was very efficient.

Anyway, she gave me a questionnaire to fill in with a green pen but apologised as all the boards were in use.

“Never mind. I’ll lean on a magazine.”

There wasn’t time to complete the form, let alone read the sheet describing all the risks of having an anaesthetic before a charming nurse called me to follow her.

Bear got up and followed us into a room where I was asked to take off my ‘top’ clothes, undo my bra and lie on the bed for a cardiogram, BP and blood sample.  She was very kind and gentle and chatted about why we had come to live in France.

“Monsieur doesn’t speak French then?” she asked after Bear had ignored her efforts to include him in the conversation.

Back in the waiting room there was barelt time to sit down before the doctor called my name. Back down the corridor we trotted, clutching papers, coat, scarf and handbag.

The doctor was a really pleasant man who asked all the questions on my paper and wrote the answers on his own sheet. He had all the time in the world and actually seemed interested in my small health problems.

Then he asked what kind of anaesthetic I would like.

“What do you advise?”

“I don’t suggest anything” he replied. “It’s for you to decide what’s best for you.”

Despite this, I had the distinct impression that he was subtley willing me to opt for an epidural. I’ve never had problems with a general anaesthetic but thought I’d give it a go.

At this stage  – after letting me struggle with French medical vocabulary – he started talking very good English.

“Now you tell me!” I chided.

He said he looked forward to seeing me again soon, we shook hands and set off to find ‘Admissions’.

Hospital corridors are notoriously long wherever you are but it seemed to go on forever, with Bear slowing down drastically.

We passed from the old building to the new and were amazed at the height and width of the main thoroughfare. It was like walking though an empty airport.

Admissions was well labelled and we went through the door to find the ‘take a ticket and queue’ system in operation. Still there wasn’t long to wait and our number lit up telling us to go to booth number three.

The lady at the desk complained about my non-updated Carte Vitale again but shuffled and stuck more papers, asked me if I wanted a single room (for which I had to fill in and sign a form) before finally telling me all was in order and I just had to report to “Chirurgerie A” on the given day.

This will be my first experience of the new hospital in the district of Manchester in Charleville. I’ll let you know how it goes.

9 Responses to “A morning at the hospital”

  1. Pat Says:

    Good luck with it all Sandy!

    Thanks Pat.

  2. tillylil Says:

    Varicose veins are no longer done on the NHS these days unless they are very severe and likely to cause thrombosis. The French NHS does seem to be so much better.
    Epidurals are probably safer than general anaesthetics – never had one myself but you won’t feel a thing and will be fully awake.
    Let us know how it all went.

    Of course I’ll tll you all about it. I was certainly not in a hurry to have them done but the doc and specialist decided it was time. CC wants hers done more for aesthetic reasons. So far her doctor says it might be better to wait because they could come back after a pregnancy.

  3. Keith Says:

    Sounds like the hospitals and surgeries are a bit different in France. For a start the doctors here don’t call you in for check-ups etc. I suppose it’s because they don’t have the funding anymore. I’ve been with my present doctor for 13 years and in all that time I’ve only seen him once, and that was when I registered. I had a preliminary examination, but it was oral. He asked if I felt alright and I said yes, and that was it! No blood test, no physical examination or anything. The only times I have been since then I was referred to the “nurse” for my problems.

    I asked last year if I could have a general medical check-up and I was told that they are not available on the NHS and I would have to pay £85 for one.

    If you are over seventy (as I am) and you have a stroke or heart attack whilst in hospital, the staff and doctors have been told by the Health Authorities not to attempt resusitation because it is not economically viable!

    In other words, if you are “revived” then the Govt has to keep paying your pittance of an state pension!

    I have varicose veins and the nurse prescibed tight “stockings” for me, which I can’t even get on.

    My dentist went “private” two years ago, and because I couldn’t afford his high fees I had to leave. I haven’t been able to find a NHS dentist to take me on since then. NHS dentists are as rare as hens teeth now! Pun intended)

    Sorry this comment turned into a posting, but you just wouldn’t believe what life is like in this country now if you are old. For Christs sake DON’T come back here.

    Unless the pound drops below the euro I can’t imagine we’ll come back to England. I keep telling you it’s time you moved to France, Keith.

  4. canisfamiliaris Says:

    so I was booked in for February 16th with instructions to go and see the anaesthetist a week or so beforehand.

    You had to be anaesthetised a fortnight before the operation?????

    That might not be a bad idea, but here you have to make an appointment to see an anaesthetist before any sort of operation. You fill in a questionnaire, they take a blood sample, check your BP and do a cardiogram etc. I suppose it saves time once you are in hospital. It also means that they are paid for the consultation.

  5. Little old me Says:

    Good luck Sandy, my mom had her veins done years ago, it went well then and they are so much better at it now.

    Yes, I remember my mum suffering after having hers done many years ago.

  6. zed Says:

    I enjoy the Belgian healthcare system too, although so far I’ve chosen the wrong hospitals food-wise! When I had my back operation I didn’t eat the entire week, the food was so bad. And that was when you jolted my memory (as if I could ever forget) about the long corridors – and renovation.

    I went to have the first x-rays done just after the shooting pains started flying up my spine. The hospital was being renovated, I had to go through part of the old hospital then back into the new – and kept stopping and bursting into tears because of the pain. An orderly came running up to me with a wheelchair only for me to snap at the poor man as sitting was even worse.

    I think we are much better looked after over here, Sandy – and I hope all goes really well – as no doubt it will.

    Well you’ve certainly had plenty of experience with Belgian hospitals. I agree, the medical care is excellent in France too, but they don’t seem to take alot of trouble about making you comfortable at first. When I had to go to casualty with a twisted ankle the journey was in a bumpy red pompier van and once at the hospital they took off the ‘blow-up’ protection and left my painful leg without any support until it was finally plastered. At least the wait wasn’t too long but then they let me out with orders not to put my foot on the ground and a prescription for crutches – but it was 8p.m. Fortunately a friend went to the chemists the next morning.

  7. Gigi Says:

    The French healthcare system’s great, isn’t it?

    I’ve lost my Carte Vitale, though (well, my daughter did) and I need a photo for the new one. Still, up until now, nobody’s asked for it..

    Hopefully that means you are pretty fit but I think you should get a new on all the same.

  8. zed Says:

    Oh, there are always the down-sides too – but it’s far better over here than in the UK, par example.

    One thing about my back-op that really upset me for a while was when the Flemish-speaking nurses transferred me onto a bed from the ‘wheelie-bed’. From what I understood (and my Flemish is poor) was that I was not allowed to sit up as the doctor’s instructions were to be laid flat. (Mis-comprehension on their part.) So I was staring at the lights thinking that ohmygod I’ll be parellised (sp) for the rest of my life – when, in fact, I could sit up.


  9. Susie Vereker Says:

    Heavens, good luck with it all. Good to get it done on the French NHS.

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