March 29, 2005

The fork goes on the left

I've translated a column from the Sunday paper:

Patients in Poland should not forget their silverware
By Kjell Albin Abrahamson, Sydsvenskan, Sunday 27 March 2005'

As a heart patient I have made a few brave attempts to be admitted to the cardiology unit at the Ystad hospital where I live. Unfortunately I have always failed. This time I didn't even try, but instead, checked myself into a Polish hospital. I knew through familiy and friends that when you enter a Polish hospital, you should not only bring your own pajamas, slippers, robe and toiletries, but also your own toilet paper and provisions. The daily milk soup with rice or macaroni does not exactly make your taste buds jump up and down in unison with culinary delight. When the nurse came to my bed with the first meal she stared at me in surprise and broke out, 'What, don't you have any silverware with you? How are you going to eat!?' 'Have I come to a Siberian prison camp instead of a Polish hospital?' I shot back. In reply to my retort, I was given a quick lesson in Polish reality. Every last pine cone in Poland knows that you have to take your own silverware with when you check into the hospital!

Otherwise, the routines are the same at hospitals everywhere. A crucifix is the only decoration on the wall, just as in many countries. A new thing though was that after they have taken your temperature in the morning, a priest comes through to give the patients the Lord's blessings. My ailing heart was analyzed for two days by the hospital, and finally they reached a verdict. 'You need to have a coronary angiogram. We suspect that it is five minutes to midnight, the time of your third and final heart attack.'

To read the rest of the column, click on the word 'comments' at the end of this post.


At March 29, 2005 9:02 AM , Blogger Matt_J said...

After two heart attacks in Austria I should have a certain amount of experience with heart surgery, but when they go messing around with the very center of your being, it gives you pause. On the morning of the operation the priest encouraged me to open my mouth and since at hospitals you get used to following orders, I did as I was told. An oblate was placed on my tounge, and I was given an extra-long blessing. The priest did not ask if I was Catholic, or even if I believed. Since heart surgery is nothing to play around with, I gratefully accepted the whole package.

In Austria the doctors went in through a vein in the groin and found their way from there, the long way, to the heart. My convalescences were rather long. My Polish surgeon, Dr. Waldemar Dorniak, took the short path in from the artery on the right wrist to the heart. I got not just one shunt but two, placed at the blockages. The operation took two hours. Two days later I was discharged from the hospital which by the way can be found on John-Paul street in Gdansk.

It was interesting to discuss medical care with the other heart patients. There was time enough to explore many questions, but it wasn't so much fun to be Swedish. A couple of them said, disapprovingly, 'Oh really, you're from Sweden!? You're the ones who take all the doctors that we really need here at home, but refuse to take any Polish construction workers.'
Somebody else could tell them that Danes, Germans and Englishmen, and even Saudi Arabians, go to Polish hospitals these days for treatment. The question is controversial in Poland. In a newspaper interview Professor Marek Nowacki, Head of the Center for Oncology in Warsaw, said, 'We are an institution that serves the Polish people. People are waiting in line to get a bed here. I am sorry, maybe I am a bad boss, but in this situation my moral duty does not allow me to help foreigners.'

A majority of hospitals though say that the Polish patients do not suffer because of the foreign patients. That is also the official policy of Poland's highest hospital authority Narodosy Fundusz Zdrowia. Foreigners have a special line with a limited number of places, and are charged more. The private hospitals welcome foreign patients. When I I tell them about Ylva Johanson's law (she is the Swedish Minister of Health Care) stopping private hospitals my fellow patients shake their heads. If they could afford it, the majority of them wouldn't have anything against going to a private hospital.

Personally, I would definitely have preferred being admitted to a Swedish hospital. Preferably in Ystad, and even if I would have been forced to bring my own silverware.


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