Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Testing out the NZ Health Care System

Hmmm - it has been an interesting few days! Whilst the usual bits and pieces were going on (more of which later...), I've also managed to suffer a fairly nasty allergic reaction to *something*. I have mutated from human to Klingon to doing a passable impression of Odo from Deep Space 9.

It comes to something when you can look like an extra from a sci-fi series without any sort of makeup!

After trying over the counter antihistamines (from a lovely pharmacist who really took the time to explain what she was selling me, and why it was the best one - and the fact that it was the cheapest had nothing to do with it!), and waking up the next morning with the swelling *worse* rather than better, I decided that it was probably time for me to visit a doctor.

Unfortunately, one of the jobs that I had been putting off was signing up for a GP! It meant that at 7.30 this morning (after letting my colleagues know that I wasn't going to be in), I had to try and work out which Health Board our area of the Hutt Valley falls under, and then try to find the closest doctor to us. And then see if they had spaces. Unfortunately, unlike the NHS, you can't be certain that when you need to go to a doctor, that they will have space to see you (they are only funded for a certain number of patients - when they reach that limit, it is at their discretion as to whether to take you on).

Fortunately, the closest doctor to us also happens to be the newest, and they are only about half way to their quota.

Unfortunately (this is turning into a game of Good News/Bad News, isn't it?), what they didn't have was an appointment for today for me to actually see the doctor. So, the very helpful receptionist (who called me back five minutes after I left an answerphone message for them - the one and only time I left an answerphone message for our doctor in Bristol, it took them over a day to get back to me!) gave me a freephone number for a nurse, and also the address of a walk in centre in Wellington which I could just go to without an appointment.

After a brief chat with the nurse (who did a check that I wasn't suffering anaphylaxis), she suggested that I did go to the walk in centre (a bit of a pain given that it is a train and a bus ride away, and I wasn't especially happy with appearing in public!) so that a doctor could check that it wasn't serious.

So - off I trekked - wearing a very low brimmed hat - and made my way over to the emergency drop in centre. In NZ, you have to pay for your appointments - when you are registered, that price is reduced, but for the drop in centre, it is $83 (without any sort of benefits card). Which is the equivalent of a week's groceries for us.

Whilst this is bad news in that we could have done without the hit to the wallet (Good News - the tax office had given me over $400 refund for my overpaid taxes, so we had the money to cover it. We had also known about this system of paying for doctor's visits, so it wasn't an unpleasant surprise when I turned up at the surgery!), it was good news in that the knock on effect is that people do only go if it *is* an emergency, and the waiting room was empty when I arrived.

So I went in to see the triage nurse (when it does get full, then they see you in order of medical urgency, not waiting time, as the large notice on the wall told me), and as I walked out of her room, the doctor showed me straight in to his one - I was in and out in under half an hour, and that included the time it took to get me onto their computer system and for me to get my prescription afterwards.

The doctor was very thorough in his consultation, and concluded that I may, indeed, be allergic to *something*. What it is, though, he really couldn't say - I have now got to make a list of everything, animal, vegetable and mineral that I have come into contact with over the last 5 days or so, and use that as an elimination tool, in conjunction with my regular GP when I get that sorted out. He also prescribed me little pink pills (very cute!) which I can already feel have helped reduce the swelling.

So, overall, for a first go at the NZ Health System, I am very impressed - it is efficient and gets the job done - yes, I may have to pay for it, but for the service I got, I don't begrudge them the money.

Other news this week - we won 2-1 in our hockey - we are still hovering at the top of the league (not the very top - the teams above us also won (though the table still hasn't been updated properly, so I'm not sure whether we are second or third...). We had a great PIG SIG with Phoenix - we're still meeting new people, and I had a great long chat with a fellow Time Team enthusiast, which was great fun. We are in the final week before our concert with the orchestra - we had our first full play through of the Unanswered Question - I still don't like it, but I don't think it is going to scare the audience away as much as I'd first thought!

We also had fun at work - it being the 25th June, our CIO decided to have a Mid-Winter Christmas get together - she provided the cold meats, and each floor was given a different food to bring (we had breads and spreads, other floors provided salads, cheese and biscuits, desserts etc.). Then we all got together for an hour in our lunch-break - it was a great chance to relax and socialise with other teams who I don't normally get to meet up with. Very enjoyable, and a lovely way to celebrate being half way through the year!


R J Adams said...

Allergies? Don't talk to me about allergies! Nary a one in Britain for fifty years. Arrive in America and what happens? I'm bloody allergic to Everything!

Hope you're better soon. It's no fun looking like Odo from Deep Space 9.

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm going with the food at that lunch thing, Jo. I have this healthy friend who nearly died in Venice after eating some proschiutto. (Oh my head's tired, sp?)
It turns out nitrates in the food were involved. Everyone else at her table healthy as horses after eating their fair share.
One never knows.
I hope you get to the bottom of this and practice avoidance, too many teams in NZ need you desperately!

Jo said...

Thanks both :-)

I'm now 90% certain that it was a topical cream that I was using (and that I brought with me from the UK!) - I now seem to have come into contact with most of the stuff that was on the list of things I'd eaten and drunk, so it's the cream (or, more likely, an anaesthetic in that cream) that is the culprit. Just need to get my act in gear and get a patch test sorted out!

Fortunately, the swelling was pretty much all gone by mid-week - just now the mild paranoia every time I feel slightly itchy!