Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sick __ Japan

I fucking hate going to the doctor. I hate it in America and I hate it in Japan. I hate Japanese clinics especially. I have National Health Insurance and I don't know if I'm just going to public health clinics or what but every time I go to a clinic in Tokyo it looks like some fucking neglected bankrupt funeral home chapel entryway or something. They're not dirty at all, they're just really run-down with peeling wallpaper, low lighting, old carpets, and more often than not, faded artificial flowers, just like, you know, the ones in cemeteries.

I don't know why I'm so outraged by this, I mean I'm always preaching the grunge... maybe it's just that in a country where you can't get a cup of coffee without 5,000 watts of fluorescent light blasting down to prove how clean the tables are (and how marked your blemishes) you would think that any place offering any kind of medical care would at least keep the paint fresh. Maybe when I'm sick and miserable enough to go to the doctor I want to feel like I'm actually in a medical facility, not some sketchy old cat lady's parlor. This is like the fifth time I've been to one of these clinics and they are easily the five dingiest looking places I have seen in Japan. That's counting dive bars.

And every time you get sick in Japan they're like GO TO THE DOCTOR GO TO THE DOCTOR! Then you go to the doctor and here's what happens.

Doctor: What's the matter?
You: [wheezing in your face-mask, swaying in your chair, eyes half-lidded, voice raspy] I have a fever of 39.5, chills, my throat is really swollen and it hurts to swallow, my body is aching, I have terrible nausea, I'm super tired, it hurts to move...
Doctor: Sooo, you caught a cold!
You: Ummm, well there's a big flu outbreak where I work, so...
Doctor: Ah! Let me look at your throat. Ah, yes. Very swollen. Okay! So I will give you some medicine for fever and throat pain. Please wait a moment.
You: ...okay, well, I can't go back to work if it's the flu, so do you think it's the flu?
Doctor: Oh, sure.

Then you pay like $14 for a bunch of little paper bags full of pills that you have to take three at a time three times a day for five days or something.

Is this just like, the experience I'm stuck with if I'm using National Health Insurance? Or can someone recommend a good place for regular medical care in Tokyo?

17 comments:

ayabean said...

Oh I've never seen the clinics like that even in my hometown. Maybe because it's old fashion Suginami? I'm so sorry! My choice was bad! There were not lots of choice because it was holiday.. I'm sure there are many clean clinics here.

Beth said...

WHAT! I thought these were super common because I've ONLY been to this kind of clinic, except for my gyno in Kichijoji. The clinics were like this in Ibaraki and Yamagata too. And the other clinic I went to in Nishiogi that one time was like this. Am I the only one landing in these??? I'll have to edit my entry if I'm giving a false impression that this is normal, then.

No other witnesses?

ayabean said...

I totally agree with you. I don't wanna go to the old clinic like this! It's shocking!! It looks unsanitary and uncomfortable! I've never seen like this in person. I've seen like this in movie, but I thought it is only in movie decade ago. Today's medical industry is competitive, so idk how this clinic survives with new ones.

Vivian said...

Hey Beth! I live in Shikoku and I've been to two different clinics, and BOTH were exactly like the ones you described. They are clean I'm sure, but yea, the decor always looks horrible and faded. I wanted to cry both times. I thought it was because I live in the most remote inaka area of Japan, but maybe not. I've had great + efficient service both times, but it wasn't easy on the eyes.

Hope you feel better soon.

Beth said...

Vivian! I wish I could say I've ever had great or efficient service at these clinics. It's TERRIBLE. The doctors never seem to ask me any questions or do anything that would seem to help make a diagnosis. Maybe it's because everyone goes to the doctor for a cold, so doctors think everyone just wants cold medicine. I don't go to the doctor unless I think I'm really sick, so it's SO FRUSTRATING to have them just be like "Oh, yeah, sure, sore throat, must be a cold, have some pills I won't explain to you."

When I've had check-ups the equipment has been like 5000 years old. I've had to talk to doctors behind curtains where everyone in the waiting room could hear. I was once told to pee into a STYROFOAM CUP, which was unlabeled and handed to me in an origami envelope made from newspaper, which I was then told to add to a row of other styrofoam-news-cups full of pee lined up in the bathroom.

When I've said I had a sore throat, the doctor glanced at my throat. But no one takes my blood pressure, or looks in my ears or nose, or listens to my lungs with a stethoscope! I could have fucking pneumonia for all they know! Then they throw a bunch of pills at me with "Antibiotic" and "Fever" scribbled on the package? What? What antibiotic? For what?

Am I crazy? Why doesn't anyone else complain about this? Am I the only one taking wrong turns into gross quack shacks?

selena said...

When I went to get my head examined, the hospital and doctor in Machida were fairly nice.

N was in the hospital for A WEEK for tonsillitis last week in Kawasaki (a private hospital), and he was stuck in a six-person room. But it deff. looked cleaner/nicer than this. Still a bit bleak but.

My grandpa used to go to the super fancy Sanno hospital in Aoyama. It's really shiny and nice. It's private so you pay a little more, though they still take the health insurance of course.

And I have friends who have found comfort with the old American doc, Dr. Shane. He's in Akabanebashi. But he doesn't take nat'l health insurance.

Vivian said...

I feel like I don't have enough personal experience with Japanese doctors to know, but from what I've heard you're not alone. Both times I went was for something specific that required a specific kind of medicine that I had written down on a paper from home, so it was very simple and efficient. I think it might be different for cold symptoms, and I hope I don't get sick. It's also hard when your level of Japanese is limited, I feel a lot gets lost in translation.

I find it very appalling that they gave you a styrofoam cup and an origami envelope! And yes, I notice that they talk very loudly, and I remember feeling so embarrassed that the whole waiting room knew about my little problem. I think confidentiality is not such a big issue over here.

I hope you can find a different clinic. You're in the Tokyo area, right? Maybe there are some international clinics you'd be more comfortable going to.

I don't think you are crazy at all, as I've heard several similar stories. It sucks getting sick, and it's even worse when you're not at home.

Lisa said...

I live in the US, and my last gyno always had me pee in a plastic drinking cup, like the kind you'd drink water out of at the water cooler at the gym.

Lisa said...

Oh, and feel better soon!!

karisuma gyaru said...

it's not cuz you go to clinics. it's pretty much the same if you go to the hospital. what they do, i mean, not the pealing wallpaper and shit... might just be the area you live in or bad luck. i've only been to one clinic and it was fine, but it was in a department store... i always went to the hospital before. that hospital is very new and fancy.

Rose said...

Where are you in Tokyo? I've been a couple of times to the St. Luke's hopsital in Tsukiji and one time it was awesome, the other time it wasn't so great (the doc was fresh out of an internship and I guess I gave him gaijin panic.) There's a clinic inside the office building adjacent to the hospital... MInato Clinic or something like that. The internist there was very nice, the place clean and well-kept and the nurses very nice. I think it might be private, but I saw ojiichans and obaachans using their national health cards.

Anonymous said...

Tonly doctors I went to were in Roppongi and a super new and clean one in Osaki. The Osaki one is right next to the station. I only went to the women`s clinic though...but it has lots of different rooms depending on what you`re there for. I really can`t say if the doctors there are different, but at least it was clean...

BigInJapan said...

I use Sanno Hospital in Aoyama, its nice and some docs speak English. They are used to foreign patients so you don't feel too alienish :)

Anonymous said...

I just went to this clinic in Shibuya and was blown away by how nasty it was. To be honest, I feel so relieved to read your post about this. I had this horrible sinking feeling that I chose the wrong clinic and just doomed myself after getting a blood draw there. This clinic looks just like how you described the other clinics! I was shocked that this could exist in the middle of super modern Shibuya. I needed a blood test and was taken to this back room that was pretty much a messy old kitchen with an old school chair in the middle, the kind with the writing board attached. The nurse must have been about 100 years old but thankfully one of the staff was there who spoke English to guide me through it. She assured me the needle they use is new. I left there wondering about the equipment and whether it was sanitary,... but I guess this is the standard here, huh?

Beth said...

Anonymous -- I never figured it out, really. The only nice clinics I went to in Japan were my gynecologist's (Mizuguchi Ladies Clinic or something in Kichijoji) and my plastic surgeon's, for laser hair removal, in Hiroo. I don't think I talked to enough people in the know to figure it out.

j said...

I had the same experiences... ugh.
My worst was when I went in with a high fever and they tested me for the flu -- it was negative. Got some meds, 5 days later I was still sick and feverish so I went in again. Figured I'd go to the same doc so that he knew my previous symptoms and would test for something else. NOPE he tested for the flu again. um. A few days later I broke out in red spots on my upper chest and face. Went to another clinic (derm), and the doc gave me some pills and a sketchy explanation. A few days later the spots had spread down my chest, neck, full face, and it was obvious that the situation was bad. Finally I went to a bigger hospital and was tested for strep. As it turns out, I'd had strep throat for almost 2 weeks at that point (really bad!! can be lethal!), which had triggered an outbreak of psoriasis. Wee! Super fail. Then I spent 9 months in other clinics/hospital getting the psoriasis to calm down. So, yeah, not very happy with the clinics in Japan...

Beth said...

J, that's always been my fear! I'm always convinced it's strep or pneumonia and I'm like HOW DO YOU KNOW I'M OKAY JUST FROM TALKING TO ME