In the last 36 hours, I managed to catch a head cold and by the end of the work day, knew that I was going to have a rough night. Knowing this, it meant I had to ‘face’ Doha Clinic. Welcome to free healthcare provided by the ruling family. I had dealt with Doha clinic before and the experience was quite unsatisfactory.
There are two kinds of health care here. (Maybe three) First, there is the healthcare the ruling family and its kin gets (5-8%). Then there’s the rest of us (the 92%). And, if you show up at a hospital or clinic and you’re an identifiable expat, you get a different level of service. Based on the numbers of people moving to Doha every month (50-55,00 newly sponsored workers and most of them being male labourers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh), the system is bursting at the seams.
Most doctors’ offices that I see on the streets are dermatologists or plastic surgeons (all who want your money). There are no family doctors or general practitioners. There are ‘clinics’ around the city that are part of the medical infrastructure and anyone can walk in to any one of them.
When you arrive at Doha Clinic the place is crowded and noisy. There are two buildings, each about 3 stories high and an emergency drive through. You walk up to a receptionist and explain your problem. You are then sent to a floor or to the other building. You walk up to another receptionist and present your QID (Qatar ID card) and health insurance card. You pay the visit fee (in my case 50QR or $15) and get a ‘ticket stub.’
My ticket stub said ENT7-16. Ear, Nose, Throat Doctor #7, patient #16. A specialist. The same thing last time – a specialist. There are no general physicians. and with each visit a new doctor. Next time I go, I might have a different issue, resulting in a different specialist.
(I have yet to figure out how to have continuity of care.) And, each visit seems to push my personal boundaries of privacy.
For example, why did the ear, nose, and throat doctor want to know if I was married when I had a garden-variety cold and all I wanted was some super-strength decongestants? Why did I need to be questioned about why I was single and had no children?
Anyway – I get ahead of myself…
After paying the QR50 fee, I am TOLD to wait in the women’s waiting room. Apparently, women and men can’t co-mingle in the same waiting space. This happens in every government office or public building – two separate spaces.
It’s a zoo inside. The room is packed and I’m the only caucasian. I’m the only person who is not wearing black. There are little kids terrorizing other little kids. This is common everywhere else I’ve been – movies, malls, restaurants, etc. The nannies that come with the mothers to tend to the children are not permitted to disciple them without being disciplined themselves. (Disciplining of the nanny would also mean potential deportation.) So the nannies cleanup the spills and sit quietly while the mothers chat on their bespoke phones that are held up to their niqabs and don’t worry about their childrens’ behaviour.
I came prepared. I had a book and a bottle of water with me and was ready to wait out my turn while children crashed into me and kept an eye out for plastic clues being flung across the room. There’s a monitor with lists of all the specialists working that night and what patient number is being served. ENT7 was at patient #8. I was #16. I finished my book while waiting.
Remember I told you I want to the clinic after work? Well, at about 5:20ish, two of the women in the room whip out their prayer mats, and facing Mecca, start chanting, kneeling and praying. Where did these mats come from?? Do they carry them around all day, along with a compass in the event they are away from home during one of the call’s to prayer? How did they know it was time to pray, both at the exact same time? (I think it’s an app on their smartphones, myself.) Indeed, the English Language newspapers print on the top right of the second page the daily prayer times. It couldn’t have been comfortable or contemplative given the announcements, phones ringing and kids screaming. Those carpets didn’t look very thick and we were in a hospital/clinic waiting room. I don’t understand…..at so many levels…..
I just have to write this stuff down or I’ll forget it, or it will become ‘normal.’ One day I’ll stop noticing the weird and wonderful and I wouldn’t want to do that!