I just had the pleasure [yes, that is pleasure] of experiencing my first foreign health care system.
The backstory: Three weeks ago I “fractured” my wrist bombing down a mountain on the first day of snowboarding season [contradicting diagnoses between first and second doctors, a florescent green cast nonetheless]. But with temperatures in Adelaide climbing above 100 degrees F and the beach irresistible, I wrapped the cast and dove in. No surprise that within 10 minutes I had a large puddle pooled inside the bag and my arm was squelching against the fiberglass. Perfect opportunity; with so much muscle gone and the swelling subsided, the cast was already rattling about. A tug-of-war on the beach with my coworker holding onto the hand — “go go go! almost there! come on!” — and off it slid! Oh the joys of being able to wash my right side in the shower, of using a knife and fork simultaneously, of typing with all ten fingers . . .
Feeling a tad apprehensive about the long term implications of not healing properly, I decided to be responsible and went into a clinic to get it looked at. I check in at the reception with basic contact information and a $90 doctor fee for not having Medicare — the government-sponsored coverage — and am called in under five minutes by a rotund doctor in a long black skirt. She pokes and prods and sends me off for an x-ray — $40. This time I am brought in almost immediately, and the doctor is there to pick up the image with me when I get out. She looks it over but has to send it to someone else for a higher resolution check. I get a call just after finishing a delicious duck and cabbage salad nearby — it’s fractured and the cast goes back on. Damage to my happiness, significant; to everything else: 30 minutes plus lunch. Gourmet fast food health care, an Australian specialty — I’m impressed!