12 January 2012

German Health Care

Being affiliated with the American military means that my family receives our health care from the American clinic on base. Most of the time when you need a specialist you will see a German doctor. This can be intimidating if you don’t speak the language, but I feel comfortable with them. To paint a broad stroke German health care is a lot more conservative than American care. What does this mean?

In July 2010 my son fell at a playground. It was obvious he had a head injury. He was not put in an ambulance and taken to the nearest hospital; instead he was sent via helicopter with a doctor on board instead of first responders. This would have been great except it took them an hour and 45 minutes to finally get him there.

At the kinder klinik they told me he had a very bad concussion. He wasn’t even three, and I wasn’t sure if he was going to make it or not. He finally woke up a few hours later. I’m pretty sure that I was saying the Rosary the whole time. As a mother I do not want my children to hurt, ever. I assumed they would give him acetaminophen (Tylenol). They gave him NOTHING! The explanation was that they wanted to see his behavior without medicine. I appreciate their point of view, but nothing at all? Poor little guy!!

Other differences, that I have personally experienced, are that hospital stays are generally longer, the food is better, not all gynecologists give you something to cover with and, the biggest one, is that the doctors take their time at your appointment and listen to you. (This is just my experience! I am not a fan of Army health care.) I don’t know if that is necessarily a German thing, or that I just really liked my OB doc. He made me feel very comfortable and indulged my lists of questions. But, he did laugh when I asked what to do if they baby came at home. :)

My oldest son has a vision loss. We waited months to see the person we were told was the best in all of Germany for this sort of thing. It took hours and many, many tests to get a diagnosis. This doctor sat with me and explained what was happening and what would happen in the future. He answered my questions and continued with things I hadn’t even thought of. I appreciated that the time I had was mine and I was not rushed.

This is truly funny: twice I was asked where I was from and both doctors knew my city in Louisiana. Random.

One last thing, if a German doc tells you that they do not speak English well they probably speak better than most Americans. Only once have I been at an appt and the doc did not speak English. I am comfortable enough with German that it wasn’t a problem. All he wanted to talk about was New Orleans.

What have your experiences been like? Do you have any advice for the rest of us?

1 comment:

  1. How funny. I think I need to start speaking English with the doctors I find the majority curt (to put it polietly) but it has helped me to toughen up and demand more information instead of waiting. Often I feel that I have to direct THEM towards tests, which is kinda weird.
    But still - much happier with the German than the American system!


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