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Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Sunday Horror: Annals of Russian "Healthcare"

Writing on Robert Amsterdam, hero journalist Grigori Pasko extols the glories of Vladimir Putin's healthcare system. Oh, what a country!

I’ve got the compulsory medical insurance policy of a citizen of the Russian Federation. According to this piece of paper, I have guarantees of receiving medical aid at medical institutions under the compulsory medical insurance program. At any rate, that’s what the paper says: “have guarantees”. And I had always thought that I had these guarantees. Until today.

Today (I’m almost embarrassed to say!), I cut my finger. At home. In the kitchen. It can happens to anyone. Unfortunately, I cut it in such a way that it didn’t stop bleeding for a long time. No matter what I tried, the blood just kept gushing out like a river.

I had to go seek medical attention. Good thing there was a «Family medical center» right next to my home. I had never been there before, and figured this was probably as good a time as any to pay them a visit. With my finger.

I was welcomed somewhat cautiously, because I hadn’t given them any advance warning I was coming, hadn’t signed up for an appointment with a doctor, and so forth. The girl at reception explained all this to me. I said that I hadn’t been able to foresee that I would cut myself, or else I would gladly have made an advance appointment to see a doctor.

The following dialog then ensued:

Girl: “Your surname? Address? Where are you officially registered?”

I tell her, and think to myself: “I wonder if she’ll ask me about prior convictions and about my marital status – this is a ‘family’ medical center, after all.”

Girl: “Show your insurance policy.”

I show it.

Girl: “Wait!”

I wait. In a couple of minutes, the girl returns and informs me that I need to be seen by a surgeon, but that there just happens not to be a surgeon on duty today.

“Go”, she says, “to the traumatology center on such-and-such a street…”

Oh, and I should mention one slight but important detail: the whole time that we’re having our pleasant little chat, the blood is still gushing out of my finger with no sign of stopping.

I say: “Maybe you could just get a nurse or someone to at least bandage the finger up with something…?”

“What are you saying!”, this endearing creature in her little snow-white medical gown retorts indignantly. “You need a shot, against rabies.”

Yes indeed, I had somehow neglected to think about the possibility that I might be rabid. Although, to be perfectly honest, I had long suspected that this disgusting attribute was already slowly festering somewhere deep inside me. Whenever I have to deal with representatives of my dear motherland’s executive power, this rabid feeling really does start to rise up in my throat. Whenever I watch domestic television, there it is again. Whenever I personally have to experience yet another manifestation of Soviet service someplace, I’m as good as gone… I get rabid.

But I digress. Off I went in search of the traumatology center. Since I had no idea where it was, I ended up stumbling across yet another medical center on my way. This one had the rather poetic name «Marina». At the entrance I immediately saw a door with the inscription «Examination room». I remembered from childhood that that’s where they give shots and bandage wounds. I showed my cut finger to the girl in the «Registration» cubicle (the blood was oozing out of the napkins I had wrapped it in).

“You got an insurance policy?”, the girl asks for starters. I answer in the affirmative. “And where do you live?”

“In the building across the street from your center.”

A pause. “You know, we don’t got no surgeon here. You gotta go to the polyclinic at your place of residence.”

Then I asked: “Maybe you could at least give me a rabies shot? Because I can already feel it in me; I’m going to get rabid any moment now…”

The girl looked at me like I was a mental patient.

So, off I went to continue my quest for that medical aid that is guaranteed by those insurance policies. I walked a long time. Nobody I asked on the way seemed to know where the traumatology center could be found. But they did tell me where the nearest polyclinic was located.

I enter the polyclinic. At the registration desk they ask: “Got a policy?”

“Got it.”

“Where do you live?”

“Practically right next door.”

“Got a medical book?” [a certificate of good health required for certain professions, such as hospital, restaurant, and educational personnel—Med.Trans.]

“No, haven’t gotten one yet.”

“Well, in that case, we don’t know if the surgeon will agree to see you…”

Just in case you were wondering, the blood is still oozing from my wound, but somewhat more sluggishly now.

I go up to the seventh floor to the surgeon. There are three people waiting ahead of me. I sit and I wait. About thirty minutes later, I walk in to the doctors. There’s two of them – pleasant looking women.

The familiar question already: “You have a policy?”

I decide to answer with a question of my own: “What if – just suppose – I don’t?” And I stick my bloody finger under their noses.

They’re in a state of bewilderment.

Then I say: “I’ve got a policy, I live next door, I don’t have a medical book, I’m soon going to get rabid, and I’m bleeding. So what do we do next?”

The women suddenly say: “Step into the examination room”, and point me towards a door nearby.

They washed the wound and bandaged my finger. The entire procedure took all of three minutes.

They never did give me a rabies shot, though, for some reason.

Maybe they should have. Because right now I’m sitting in front of my computer and reading everything there is on the internet about compulsory insurance, and I can feel myself getting very rabid indeed…

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