Today, in the name of research, I went to the hospital.
I guess I could’ve waited till Monday–or just not gone at all–but I really was curious what a tourist is supposed to do in a non-emergency medical situation. (My situation: constant sensation of vague rocking, and a pain in my ear. Every house I’m in feels like a houseboat.) Funny, the previous editions of the guide don’t mention this in any concrete way. But the truth is, when you’re writing a guide, these details are in the back, the last thing you get to, and you dig up the addresses of a few hospitals and call it done.
Turns out there’s this nifty phone line here in Amsterdam that you can call before going to the hospital–they’ll tell you which place is closest to your house, and put your name in a file so the staff is waiting for you when you get there. Actually, I didn’t really know this last part, so there was a bit more of a wait at the hospital than there probably should’ve been, while the staff finished eating their dinner. “Can it wait till morning?” one woman said, not grumpily, between bites of her sandwich. I said I’d prefer not to, she shrugged, and I went to sit in the waiting room. Everything was pretty and pleasant, and the hospital was handily located on one of the main canals.
Just a bit later, after the sandwich woman saw my name was in the system, she apologized, and took me into the doctor’s office. The doc shook my hand, looked in my ear and throat and pronounced it viral. Nothing to be done but wait a few days. As someone said later, if this had been the US, they would’ve given me a prescription for something, just to placate me.
I felt a bit like a hypochondriac, and was tempted to tell her about my job, but figured that would look just as bad, in terms of interrupting everyone’s dinner.
Note that the emergency ward was previously called “Eerste Hulp” (“First Aid”). The name was changed to “spoedeisende hulp” (lit.: speed demanding help) . Since the Dutch health system includes general practitioners (“huisartsen”), people should only go to the “spoedeisende hulp” when there is an emergency. If not, they should visit their general practitioner. Many hospitals have a general practitioner’s ward (“huisartsenpost”) and a emergency ward (“spoedeisende hulp post”) to prevent people with non-emergency complaints to get in the way of patients that need emergency aid.)
From there, more Googling (while mentally commending the Dutch for their genius system, and saying the word spoedeisende several times, to really test its silliness) got me a whole site about the huisartsenpost system, and a number to call. Brilliant.
I came out of the hospital 80 euros (80 expensable euros!) poorer, but so enriched in terms of knowledge. Score for the guidebook!