Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Taiwan Medical Care – NTU Hospital & Flu Vaccine Shots

Well in a recent blog, I told you about the world class clinic, HEALTHCONN, and also about the fine regional hospital in Taipei's Sanxia District, En Chu Kong Hospital.  This will be a very short blog about two recent experiences for myself at the NTU Hospital in Taipei.  

First, as I have said before, when traveling the world to old, new and exotic destinations, the global traveler needs to remember one thing above ALL else.  Expect the Unexpected!

No matter how experienced you are traveling to international destinations…..  No matter how you prepare and pack all of your essentials….  No matter how careful, cautious and considerate you are of others and your new surroundings…. Expect the Unexpected!

Ok I think you got the point.  On this trip to Asia and Taiwan, I came here in good health, except for a mildly sore right wrist.  In my second week here, I had a small fall (on last step on the marble stairs of my apartment building) because I was looking up and not paying attention.  I caught myself with my right wrist on the floor,  and re-injured my wrist.  It was quite painful.  A few days later, I decided I needed to see a doctor just to get an Xray and make sure I did not break or dislocate a bone in my wrist or forearm.

We made an appointment, and was given a number (35), to see Dr. Chen in the Rehabilitation department of NTU Hospital in the old hospital building, clinic room #1 on Friday. 

Original (old) Building @ NTU Hospital - Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Entering the hospital for the first time was quite a site.  People, patients, employees everywhere….  Signs on the ceilings in Chinese and English….  Turn left, turn right…. Where did the signs go??? ….  Which way now? …. Go back and try again.  

A good thing at the NTU hospital is that there are a lot of volunteers willing to help. And we found our clinic room #1 and I noticed every clinic, examination room, Xray room, etc. has an LED board out front showing which patient number is being helped by the doctor, and which patient number is next.  When 35 came up, we entered, game the doctor my ID, information, and described my wrist problem.  After 5-10 minutes, Dr. Chen had a strong feeling about the diagnosis, but wanted to confirm with Xrays and an Ultrasound.  That sounds expensive because I do not have Taiwan medical insurance!  Before Xrays, we had to go to the clinic registration and pay for the exam, Xrays and Ultrasound….  The total bill came to $1852!  That’s Taiwan dollars, NOT USD, and that is equal to about $67.00 USD.  WOW, what a deal. 

We followed the signs to Xray Registration and had to get a Xray room number and patient number.  We got Xray room 4, and #209.  They were already helping patient # 204, so not too long to wait.  We had to come back for our Ultrasound on Monday.  Same process for Ultrasound, and then to see Dr. Chen for his final diagnosis.  It turns out I have arthritis in my wrist, and an inflamed tendon between my thumb and wrist… broken bones.  The doctor prescribed some anti-inflammatory medicine, and six (6) sessions of therapy.  Now we had to pay for the second doctor appointment and the first physical therapy session, then find room 118 to make my first appointment (this came to almost $35 USD)!

Three days later, I went to room 115 for my therapy at 2PM and met my therapist, Ms. Li, an intern in her final year of college. She spoke pretty good English, and asked many questions.  She then took measurements on my range of motion to assess the best therapy.  Fourty-five minutes later, she brought me a heated tool for a 20 minute heat therapy to reduce pain.  (It did feel much better.)  Then she used 5 minute of Ultrasound and then 2 minutes of soft and gentle massage of the wrist tendon.  Lastly, she hooked me up to an electrical stimulus machine for 20 minutes of therapy.  I must say, at the end, the pain was reduced, and I had better mobility.  I still cannot believe this 1-2 hour therapy with an attentive and well trained therapist is only $20.75 USD per session!

Ms. Li is a caring and detail oriented physical therapist, and I know she will have a great career in this field.  At the end of six sessions (3 times per week), my pain is reduced to a manageable level, and I have home exercises and procedures to continue to heal my wrist. Thank you so much Ms Li!

An Aerial View of the NEW NTU Hospital Building - Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia
(Tan Building in Center)

Ok, its Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, and in the news there is concern about a new viral flu strain that could kill up to 5,000 people in Taiwan if they are not careful or vaccinated.   

My wife and I made an appointment for our vaccine, and was given numbers 10 & 13 for Family Medicine Department clinic room #6 on the 2nd floor, at 2 pm today, Wednesday November 7, 2012.  The clinic opens at 9:00 am so we planned to arrive around 9:00 am or so.  We left our apartment at 8;30 am and took a bus to the NTU Hospital.

Information Desk on 2nd Floor, Family Medicine Department

We arrived about 9:10 am, got directions from the information desk, and sat in front of clinic door #6 while patient #1 was being helped.  I forgot to mention, that all throughout the hospital, there are Hi-Definition TV’s in waiting rooms, cafeterias, in front of clinic/exam rooms, etc.  This was convenient since we were early, and I wanted to see the early results of the US Presidential election.  They flashed a report saying that Romney was ahead 88 electoral votes to Obama’s 79 electoral votes.

We did have to wait a long time, almost one hour.  One thing surprised me was that when we were next (#10).  This Chinese lady and her husband walked up to the clinic door 4 times while patient #8 and #9 were being helped by the doctor.  All of a sudden,  the LED’s switched from #10 being next back to #3 being next.  Now I was there when patient #3 had been taken care of by the doctor, and he already left.  The couple quickly walked in to see the doctor. It appears to me that these two people received some kind of special treatment and was given a priority ahead of us.  When they left, my wife and I went in together.  The doctor and her nurse, confirmed our appointment and name, asked us questions, checked our body temperatures, and then they printed out our papers.

First step after the doctor visit in clinic room #6, was to find a payment machine down the 2nd floor hallway.  It scanned our document, and directed us to pay $623 TWD or about $20.75 USD.  We got our receipt then had to go find the pharmacy to pick up our vaccination. 

My receipt number was C190, and we had to go the Pharmacy on the 1st floor. There were 4 windows in the pharmacy, A,B,C, and D.  They were serving #177, but within 5 minutes, we had our prescription.  Now we had to go back up to the 2nd floor and find the room where the nurses would take our prescription and give us an injection.  We found it and within 2 minutes, we had our vaccination.  

The nurse told us to stay in the waiting area for 15 minutes before we left the hospital because vaccines can affect people differently.  I never have had a reaction to a vaccine flu shot, but surprisingly, I did feel a little dizzy and nauseous on the taxi ride home.  In 15 minutes, we arrived back home, almost 4 hours after we left for the Hospital.

I must say that for all the procedures to get a vaccine, the number of people we interacted with, and the total time we spent in the hospital, $20.75 is "dirt" cheap and a great deal!

HOWEVER, flu vaccines in the United States of America are so much easier and less of a hassle to get than one in the Taiwan NTU Hospital.   

I have had my flu vaccines over the years in my work office, an my doctor’s office, even at the CVS Pharmacy down the street from where we lived.  The price is about the same, about $20 to $30 USD unless your company insurance covers part of the cost and then the deductible is only about $10.00.   

In every case, it has never taken me more than 20-30 minutes to get a flu shot.  You may have to wait your turn for about 10 to 15 minutes, then walk into a room at work, at your doctors, or in a partitioned area at the CVS Pharmacy.  In minutes the nurse injects the vaccine and you are done and on your way.

Certainly, Taiwan needs to find a more simplified way of giving out flu vaccines shots than the procedure we went through at the NTU Hospital today!

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