August 31, 2012


Bob Barker and I have one thing in common. That is, no one is into our games. Well all I can say is that it's a good thing nobody played and won because the winner was going to get a FREE all expenses paid trip to sunny southern Spain. Not really, but it was worth a shot at making you feel guilty for not posting a guess. And since I know you're all curious as to what was missing off that hospital tray from my last post, I'll tell you.

Yes, here in the public hospital apparently giving patients a beverage with their meal is considered 'excessive'. It shocked the hell outta' me surprised me too. When I was admitted for a week earlier during this pregnancy I learned the BYOB rule the hard way. Now wiser, I had Joe bring me half a dozen 2 liter bottles of the bubbly to keep me hydrated.

Basically, the differences between my experiences in American hospitals versus those here in Spain are really more cosmetic than anything else. Granted, water is kind of a big deal in terms of nutrition but I think I can explain it.

You see here, the culture is such that if you have a loved one admitted at least one family member will stay bedside and keep vigil. If you're a gypsy, then you can multiply that by about 5 or 6 family members. No matter what though, your family will be here. There is no denying it and you have no choice in the matter because you are the 'not well' one. In having that family member bedside, you now have an automatic nurse's aid. It's your family member who will help you to the bathroom, help you to shower, help you get up and out of bed, help you change your clothes, and yes, get you that bottle of water when you need it. The nurses here are more focused on administering meds, updating their charts, and seeing that floor rules are being followed. They are not your mother, not your sister, and definitely not your waitress so don't even think about asking.

Additional examples of how the fat is trimmed here include the following:
10 euros buys you 10 hours of tv programming
Birthing suite?  Uhm, what's that? When it's time you'll be wheeled
down to the delivery room.  See No Delivery Service below.
this floor has 2 or 3 wheelchairs which means you may have to wait an extra 5- 10 minutes to go down for that ultrasound, to see your baby or to go pump
If you want a service, you have to go to its location because they don't come to you.   For example, there's a lactation room with 6 Medela
breast pumps available daily from 8am-midnight. Wanna pump? Fine,
come on down.   But they won't be bringing one to your bedside.

For those who want more pampering there is private insurance which will net you a more country club experience but should complications arise be prepared to be shipped off to the public hospital because that's where all the specialists are. Is it third world? Hardly. But it is different. Once you figure out the game rules, it's really astonishing at how easily it all flows with what some might say is so little. And the best part is that it's available to everyone at the same bargain price: free. There are no copays. There are no more calls to Blue Cross Blue Shield to fight over prescription coverage or to explain why an extra ultrasound is needed. Here the doctor calls the shots not the claims agent.

This isn't to say that Spaniards don't pay for their medical care though. We do considerably more in taxes of which a hefty sum goes to healthcare. So yeah, there is a cost make no mistake. And sadly, I used to be one of those who said no way to the notion of my tax dollars going to pay for somebody else's healthcare. Why should I have to pay to get YOUR (insert health issue) treated? Sorry, not my problem. This coming from the girl who had a sweet insurance package from work but also one that cost me time I'll never get back with my three little ones because with my husband being self employed there was no other choice but to work. Had I not worked we would have never been able to afford coverage for our family being that two of the kids have a preexisting condition. No way. Never. So now, just a year into our new life in Spain I'm singing a different song. Way different. And I like it.

I'm not getting my million dollar birthing center experience like I had with the other three and that's okay. I now see how much pomp and circumstance was rolled into my Stateside hospital stays and to some degree it embarrasses me. Do we really need free soda machines in our maternity wards? A fountain in every atrium?  Is it the best use of the nurse's time to be babysitting a bunch of breast pumps? More importantly, would socialized medicine at this level work in the States? I don't know but I tend to lean towards hell no as opposed to just no or maybe. Why? American medicine, and this is just my opinion so don't get your panties in a bunch, is just too big a beast to tame. Insurance companies and hospital administrators and to some extent, the public have turned it into a profit seeking monster. The next time you flip on your local television station and see an ad for your city's leading medical center you might want to ask yourself this: 
Why do they need to advertise? 

That right there says it all.  Doesn't it?


  1. I don't see how, with respect to the medical system, 'socialism' is a bad thing. Medical treatment is considered a basic right by many in Europe. By that I don't mean Accident & Emergency, we'll simply stitch you up and send you back out into the world. It means that, if you get sick, then you will get treatment. It might not be "the best", "the fastest" or "the newest" treatment but you will be looked after. You pay into the collective fund throughout your life knowing that what you pay as a young person will typically be used to treat older sicker people. As you age, you gradually become sicker and make more use of the same system. Hopefully, there are still enough young people paying in to ensure that the system still works this way. If you're lucky then you don't get sick and you never need to use the medical system. Money down the drain? No, a warm fuzzy feeling from knowing that you've made your contribution to society and that, like any insurance, you would have been covered if something bad had happened.

    As I see it, the US system of private medical care (medical care for profit not as a basic right) and insurance companies seriously distorts things. To become a doctor costs serious money (in the US) which doctors need to recoup. Insurance costs money. Doctors figure, well the insurance company is paying for this so I'll give you the premium drugs and treatment, etc. The insurance company fights everything to keep the cost to them down, maybe at the expense of your personal treatment. At every point this has become all about money, not health care.

    At this stage in it's development, there is no way that you'll be able to introduce a 'socialist' medical system, but I'm so glad that we don't have the US-style of health care in Europe.

  2. Well said, Anonymous.

    Not too long ago I listend to an interview with Irish President, Michael Higgins. Did you catch it? He was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. And what became crystal clear (and that you as well make mention of) is that above and beyone hospitals, insurance companies, and medical 'systems' is that we're dealing with a cultural value. A cultural value that sadly, many Americans don't share.

  3. Here's my grand Los Angeles (oh yeah) birthing experience. When we toured the "Birthing Center" at UCLA and met the midwives, they showed us these incredible private rooms with sound systems where you could play your cd of ocean sounds or zen chimes. There was a hot tub where your baby could just 'float to the service' into this world. "They actually swim up for their first breath," they said. Fast forward a few months later, I'm in labor, show up and there is no room at the inn. All the rooms are booked. So, I'm huffin and puffin in a fucking utility closet. I'm not kidding. A closet. And it's adjacent to the waiting room, so I hear people commenting on my moans, like, "Wow, sucks to be her!" As I'm pushing Froggy out of my vajayjay, in the hallway, the hallway!, they finally whisk me into a room. No time for birthing balls or that zen shit, just pop, out comes a baby. I could have been in a barn. No drugs, no hot tub, just $12,000 for one night in a utility closet. And I'll never forget the midwife (she was fantastic). I was in so much pain and kept asking when my room would be ready and she said, "Honey, whether you're here or there, you'll still be in labor." Indeed.