Friday, October 07, 2011

Kuwait's Healthcare System: Part 1

Due to a series of recent, unfortunate circumstances, I was forced to experience-first hand-what it's like to be at the receiving end of Kuwait's Public Healthcare System, and I can say with no ambiguity nor uncertainty and it positively and collectively SUCKS! Aside from the small isolated pockets of sanity and humanity here and there, the entire system needs the ministerial equivalent of a full-scale lobotomy, and that's if it needs to be up to par with similar countries like, say, Bahrain! (More on that later)
My mother has been suffering from Blood Pressure irregularities lately, due to various reasons, chiefly among them is her age, as is usually the case. After a short-but serious-overseas medical emergency while vacationing in Egypt, my family and I finally managed to bring her home to see her Physician, who is also a good family friend. The day after she had arrived we booked an appointment to see him, and once there, he was kind enough to ask his colleague to see my ailing mother. I later found out that this colleague is one of Kuwait's foremost leaders in his field, and we were lucky to have some of his time.

Both Doctors immediately required my mother to undergo a cycle of checks; Blood tests, X-Ray, EEG, ECG, and a couple of other acronyms I can't remember. Thankfully, all results came back with encouraging results, and the prognosis was that my mother should adjust her Blood Pressure medicine to a less adverse regimen, and that she should watch her salt intake.....all good and mind-settling, and we're thankful to God and the good doctors for such close care and swift action.

However, to obtain these results, my brother and I had to jump over hurdles so high you'd think we were trying out for the Bureaucratic Competency medals at the Olympic Games! I've only included the major ones here, but none are unworthy of mention, I assure you!

First: Taking a blood sample
We were required to wheelchair our mother to the 'Outpatient Clinic' to have her blood drawn. I say 'Clinic', where in actual fact, it's a series of reinforced 'Spacemaker' boxes' installed in rows, on top of , and abreast of each other. Walking past the many faces and smells and various levels of personal hygiene, we reached the place where the blood is drawn. Now, picture this, a small square window with a door beside it, and opposite these two objects are a few rows of chairs in a medium-sized atrium that serves as a waiting area. Since I was in a really bad mood, I declined to wait in line in front of the window (you need to get a number from a Qmatic machine and wait for your turn), and just wheeled my mother past the door and into a room full of 20-somethings with white robes on top of their clothes. These people are generally regarded as 'Doctors', but  to me, they seemed to be more like nursing school graduates, or Medical Students in training, because not one of them looked mature enough to recognize an upset patient if their lives depended on it!

Think 'Scrubs' but without the humor, or the glamorous actors, or the blue hospital overalls. Just clumsy airheads with jeans, trainers, a white coat and crappy manners! No ID cards, no name tags, just a bunch of recently-matured airheads walking about, boys with different levels of bad hairstyles and a young women with a mind-boggling and toxic amount of make-up! And they were all being supervised by a middle-aged woman who seemed to look like she was the one in charge around there.

Some of them were arguably not supposed to be there at all, as if they were 'hanging out' with their chums, or flirting with each other, retards with white robes, chatting away at each other across the room, joking about this or that, exchanging jokes and messages via their BB devices and iPhones. I was in a rectangular room, maybe 4 meters wide by 15 meters long. To my left was the supervisor's desk, and to my immediate rear left was the 'tickets window'. To my right was a counter that was full of white-coated airheads talking so loud they reminded me of a chicken coop! Directly in front of me were blood retrieval stations, approximately 10 of them, all separated by curtains and identifiable by electronic number signs that alert you to your assigned station according to the Qmatic number tag. Each station was staffed by a group of of these creatures, about 2-4 to each station.

The group that tended to my mother (yes, a group of three young female retards ladies!) did their thing, and one of them turned and casually told me to come pick up the results in three days. When I informed her that the doctor wanted the results soon, she asked me to send the blood sample to the lab myself, since that way, it'll finish sooner. When I asked how sooner, she casually replied "An hour".....

The sheer indifference, the preposterous logic of her statement almost made me faint! My mind went in circles for about five minutes after that, I was questioning my own sanity; Was it me? Am I wrong to think that blood work results have a completion time difference of 71 hours depending on who sends the results to the lab? Am I wrong to consider myself living in a country where Oil income naturally imposes a standard of living that's much higher than an animal shelter?

As I was crossing the street on my way to the lab (yes, the lab is across the street from the Outpatient Clinic, in the first floor of the main Hospital building!) I almost bumped into a 'Farrash' who was leaning over a wall talking to a female "Farrasha",(Sanitation workers) , and he was carrying a basket of capsules full of blood samples in one hand, and bunch of papers in the other had. When I saw what he was carrying, I asked him if he was heading out to the lab. Rightly enough, he confirmed my fears; He was. Here was this sanitation worked, standing out in the heat and under the sun, trying to spice up his love life while holding patients' blood works! I thanked him and walked on, praising the Almighty God for endowing me with enough brain cells to realize that 'something' was wrong with that whole picture!

I reached the lab with relative ease, thanks to the near-GPS directions I had received from "Romeo" a few minutes earlier. I submitted the samples and was asked to return to receive the results within a hour. With that done, I returned back to my mother's location to see if I could help my brother out with whatever he was tasked to do.

Second: Taking an X-Ray
The X-Ray section was on the ground floor, so I took the stairs and walked a short distance until I reached the section, where I found my mother, still on the wheelchair, with my brother standing by her side. Apparently the papers were submitted to the attending staff and we were waiting for our turn. 

I'd like to make a not here, and say that this was the fastest and least troublesome hurdle we had to jump over, even though it was hundreds of meters -and an entire building away- from the Outpatient Clinic where the blood samples were drawn, and even though it was a full flight of stairs away from the lab where the test results were to be submitted and received. 

I t was a short wait, my brother and I had some time to ourselves to discuss the next course of events and compare notes and so on, and pretty soon the X-Ray results were eventually handed to us by a tall, middle-aged Egyptian doctor with a salt-and-pepper beard. He could have been a technician or something. I couldn't tell exactly what he was, as was also wearing a white robe, and a smile so big he would have put Alice In Wonderland's Cheshire Cat to shame!

Third: The Portable BP Machine
This wasn't much of an event, to be honest, but it's part of my story. My mother was to be treated as an out-patient, for her convenience, and for the fact that, thankfully, her case wasn't severe enough to warrant her admittance into the hospital. She was supposed to be fitted with a portable Blood Pressure monitor for 24 hours, but unfortunately the one machine that was in the possession of the Cardiac Unit was being used by another patient, and no other spare unit was available until the next day. I'll leave the ironic comments on that one up to you!

Once all this was done, it was back home and a pat on the back for a good day's job well done; All scheduled tests were completed, all results are/were to be received within a relatively short time, and my mother was visibly tired from the crowds and noise. So we all decided to reward ourselves with a nice brunch at Lenotre, where the sight of a clean waiter and the smell of freshly-baked confectioneries and aromatic aroma of breakfast food made me so emotional it almost brought tears to my eyes! 

I was back in civilization, where the words 'excuse me' aren't reciprocated with an angry grunt, where a counter is really a counter, not an old metallic office desk, and where the staff are actually standing behind the counter waiting to help people! 

As I was having my coffee and eggs, I reflected on what we had all just went through, and this was with the help of senior-level physicians with some clout! It was a nightmare for us, and I can only imagine it to be even worse for those less fortunate souls who are just as needy as we were, and are forced to endure the extremely senseless and inhumane bureaucracy just to get treated for their ailments.

End of Part 1

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