4 years using the NHS – what I’ve learnt

Facebook reminded me that yesterday marks 4 years of being back on my meds full time. This also means that it’s been 4 years of government clinic hours, figuring things out and navigating my way through the system.

There are a lot of nay-sayers and people who turn their noses up at public health care because “it’s only for the poor” or “but it’s so dirty” and the one I’ve heard so often “the Doctors clearly aren’t good enough to work at public hospitals, you shouldn’t go there”.

The thing is that unless you have a pretty decent paying job or a position that has medical aid included in your package then often going private simply isn’t an option. Medical aid is expensive, even hospital plans aren’t pennies and usually either don’t cover half of the things you need them to.

For example, my monthly specialist appointments aren’t covered (been there tried that) and those are R2500 for the 15 minutes I need to see her and let’s not even get started on the medication that they won’t cover because to them it doesn’t fall under chronic medication which means that even if I was on medical aid I’d still have to pay for these over and above whatever medical aid for two people is lately.

There are things that suck about government healthcare, the wait for instance. You can pretty much write the entire day off when you go and when you first try get into the system you need some serious patience. It’s loud and slow but there is no prejudice. You aren’t seen to first because of status. You’re seen to in order you put your file down or stand in the queue that’s that. You sit and wait with everyone else there. You’re all there for a reason after all. And the Dr’s aren’t there for the money, they’re there because it’s what they want to do so your visits might be short but there’s no beating around the bush, the take you seriously and they have compassion despite seeing so many people every day. The dentists are the best I’ve ever been to, their family health is so kind and their physiotherapists are friendly and patient.

Of course it isn’t always sunshine and daisies, waiting isn’t always the only thing you have to deal with… I have had my file lost once and misplaced twice. Sometimes it’s so full you have to stand for the entire time until you’re seen. Sometimes the person next to you will smell so bad your eyes water or the idiot one person over will think it’s perfectly fine to sit and watch the most uninteresting documentary on full volume without headphones.

 


 

I’ve picked up a few tricks over the years though and so I thought that I would make a little list of things that I’ve learned make days at the clinic easier for anyone who is considering going :

  1. Take your ID, you’re going to need it to set up a folder if you haven’t been there before.
  2. If you’re going for the mental health department you need a letter from a referral from a private shrink (this is a pain I know but often you can go to a place like Hope House and their counselor will write it for you).
  3. Pack tissues, the toilet’s are generally kept really clean but most of the time there is no loo paper. I don’t know…
  4. Don’t have anything sharp or weapon-ish as security checks your bag before you head in. I’ve seen building tools confiscated (don’t worry, they give it back, it’s just a pain).
  5. Pack headphones. Even if you aren’t going to listen to music they do help dull the noise and trust me, there is a lot of noise.
  6. Not all clinic’s have air-conditioning. Be prepared for stifling heat in summer, even with the windows open it can get pretty warm.
  7. Take snacks and pack water. You never know if it’s going to be a long or short day and it’s not like there is always a shop close by, and even if there is once you’re in the queue you don’t want to get up and miss them calling your name.
  8. Pack in something to do, something to fidget with. Anything that can keep you busy. I usually have a book and some crochet with me. I used to draw while there but got tired of people always staring at what I was doing.
  9. Get a good nights sleep the day before because sitting there when you’re cranky and annoyed doesn’t make the day any easier, trust me on this.
  10. And the biggest tip of them all… NEVER FORGET YOUR CLINIC ID CARD! Getting anything done without it is nightmarish.

 

Whatever you do, whoever you see or however you go about it. Just remember that IT’S OKAY to ask for help. It doesn’t make you weak xoxo

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