Spanish Health System Adventures

Just three weeks into my semester abroad, I had to go to the hospital after suffering from sharp pain in my chest region. I called my doctor in Switzerland and he recommended I should go to the hospital emergency. There, I didn’t have to wait long and was able to do all the necessary examinations: An X-ray of my upper body, a blood test and an ECG. Shortly after that, I received some medication and was no longer in pain. Thinking I would be able to go home soon, I was waiting for the final results of the examinations. When the doctor entered with the results I could see on his face that I would not be able to go home soon.

He said that they would bring me to a bed and on the way explained to me that my heart muscle as well as my heart sac were severely inflamed. After a few hours, a crew from the intensive care unit (ICU) came to pick me up and I was brought there. Once we arrived in the ICU, I was put in a new bed (I was not allowed to switch beds myself as I was supposed to strain myself as little as possible), where I spent the next 5 days.

After 5 days I was able to go home and had a very short talk with a cardiologist who gave me a document telling me that I would have to do a checkup sometime in the future. As the cardiologist did not give me any information as to where and when the checkup would take place and what exactly I would have to do, I called my doctor in Switzerland. While the cardiologist told me that I would be able to do light sports again after 10 days and sports like usual after 15 days, my doctor told me that I would not be able to do sports for 2-3 months. He also told me that the checkup should take place after 4-6 weeks.

So after 4 weeks I called a health center and explained my situation. They told me that I would have to call the hospital where I had received treatment originally, which I did. However, they told me that I had to call a specific health center, which I did. Unfortunately nobody picked up, so I decided to go there in person as it is not far from my apartment. There, I didn’t have to wait long and explained to the lady at the reception that I needed to see a cardiologist and showed her all the documents I had received. After that, the lady told me that the doctor would call me the next day. I thought this was a bit strange, because I imagined it was kind of hard to examine a heart by telephone but I was glad that I could at least talk to a doctor. Unfortunately, nobody called me the next day. Therefore, I went back to the health center the next day to ask what went wrong. They told me that I had misunderstood and was supposed to go to the doctor in person and gave me another appointment for the next day. 

When I saw the doctor the next day I told her that I was sorry that I had missed the appointment the other day. However, it seems that no appointment had been scheduled, not even a call, meaning that the people at the reception had made a mistake but decided to put the blame on me. 

After explaining my situation once again to the doctor, she told me that I would have to go to a cardiologist – which I had been telling them from the beginning – and she wrote a note to the cardiologist to call me and give me an appointment. She also gave me an appointment for an ECG at the health center a week later and another appointment with her to look at the ECG another week later.

Two weeks I later I went to my appointment, where she was astonished that the cardiologist still had not called me – it had now been 6 weeks since I first started having problems so the deadline for the examinations according to my Swiss doctor was approaching. When she checked, she saw that the cardiologist had given me an appointment for 4th of May (10 weeks after my problems started, e.g. one month too late according to my doctor in Switzerland).

At this point, I decided to go back to Switzerland for a week so that I could do the necessary examinations. 

So if you ever find yourself in need of a doctor in Spain, try to book your appointments as early as possible or even better: Go back to Switzerland immediately.

Micha Röthlisbersger

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