This evening I had the pleasure of visiting Gunsan’s finest hospital. Hooray! It wasn’t a big deal, but I was feeling quite crappy and knew that if I postponed a dr.’s visit things would only get incredibly worse over the next 16ish hours. So I bit the financial bullet to save myself the pain and agony.
The ER was quite busy, mainly full of old people and the obligatory staff members. I checked in at reception, showed my registered alien card (because Korea really is another planet), and was shown to my personal cot/bed in the corner to wait. I took a moment to look around at what was happening and who was around me. Two beds directly in front of me was an elderly woman who seemed to be having knee pain. The bed directly in front of me and two feet away was occupied with a man who was asleep in the fetal position. No idea what was going on there. On the bed to my left was a man who came in with a limp due to a BADMINTON injury. Just past him was a man who was moaning like a dying cow. Every now and again he would kick his leg in agony whilst moaning. This was very concerning to me for obvious reasons. Upon further observations I noticed a cloth in his mouth that seemed to be saturated with dried blood. He had purple spots on his hands, too. I’m not sure what sort of drainage device was inserted into his body because after a while two nurses came over to empty a jug of reddish/pink liquid into a container. Soon after he was moved to a different bed by his sons and wheeled away with his family in tow.
Healthcare in Korea is compulsory i.e. it is government run. I’ve been somewhat satisfied with my very basic coverage. It costs about $50/month and provides basic care. And I do mean basic. I have a mouthful of crappy fillings that I’m sure will need to be replaced one day, but at the time they cost me $35 for seven(7) of them. Had I opted for a resin filling it would’ve cost about $100 a pop as they are not covered by basic insurance. Yikes. If you go to a physician you typically get three days of pills and most of the time you still feel like crap at the end and have to go bad. A visit to a clinic will cost you about $6, medication for three days is about double. Not bad, but you have to go back twice (generally) and you cannot make an appointment. A visit to a dr. in a hospital (most common) will cost you about $11. My visit to the ER with some serious pain killers, antibiotic bag, and three doses of medication cost me about $50. Without insurance it would’ve cost me $120.
When I first arrived in Korea I was shocked with the lack of privacy that took place everywhere. Hospitals are no different. Americans tend to be on the prudish side and I don’t see them being too receptive to this sort of health care. Before you say, “But surely they’ll make adjustments to accommodate.” No they won’t. I had a TB test done at a county health clinic IN THE HALLWAY with people passing by. Costs will be cut and your personal space will be the first thing to go. For some that is a horrible crime.
Don’t get me wrong, I think healthcare needs reform, but I don’t think most Americans realize what is going to be cut and the type of service that will replace what there currently is. Or what isn’t there in some cases. You can’t have everything for nothing and most people just don’t get that idea. Maybe people won’t care about the lack of personal space, or perhaps they’ll continue to bitch about what they don’t have. Either way, America needs a bit of perspective on the matter and this is mine. Take it as you will.