As always, I’ve been going to remarkable lengths to test out all that is best about France, and this week it was the turn of the French health system and the ‘urgences’ (A and E) at the local hospital.
It wasn’t possible to just turn up with any old graze or splinter, so I went to a lot of trouble to come up with a real condition.
Motivated by watching Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France I tried to cycle up a few hills at a much faster speed than normal, temporarily forgetting that advancing age and lack of training meant it just wasn’t going to happen, and in no time at all I was unable to walk with a bad back.
And had the perfect opportunity to test out the local health service.
Mrs B likes nothing better than getting out of bed at the crack of dawn to drive me 25 kilometres to hospital, as I’m sure you can appreciate, and off we went.
Despite the curious decision to avoid providing parking anywhere near the entrance to urgences, we eventually staggered in and were whisked into a small room (no waiting required) where I was poked and prodded to everyone’s satisfaction (except mine, perhaps).
The most exciting question they asled, and apparently ask everyone (perhaps it’s the same in other countries?) was ‘On a scale of 0-10, where 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can possibly imagine, how much does it hurt?’
I said “5 now, and 7 before”, because although it was very painful it is not hard to imagine that lots of things would hurt more, especially the kind of things you see on CSI or in the films that are on rather late at night
Mrs B, I should say, was not at all impressed with a 5 and has warned me that in future I must not wake her up with less than an 8. So be warned if you are ever in the same position – think of quite a high number or all sympathy disappears very quickly.
In no time at all I was hooked up to a drip, mostly I think so I would stop being a nuisance. Have you ever had a drip (or ‘perfusion’ as we like to call it in France)? I hadn’t, but as the name suggests it works rather slowly and for the next three hours I just lay there. Mrs B sat next to me on a wobbly stool, complaining it was giving her a bad back…
Handy hint: even if you are in a rush to get to hospital, grap a book or a couple of magazines on the way out of the door. Three hours watching drip bags empty is slightly uninteresting and the only entertainment of any type in the room was a single picture book for young children.
Anyway, after a few hours I was much livelier and allowed to leave, along with the obligatory prescription for large numbers of medicaments that no self-respecting French doctor would overlook.
Overall the service was quick, efficient and seemed thorough – although they spent more time poking my kidneys and taking my blood pressure than looking at my back, but I’m sure they knew what they were doing.
So I can heartily recommend that at the earliest opportunity when in France you develop an injury and rush to hospital, to see a side of France and the French that you might otherwise overlook and which is both efficient and friendly.
Even better, do as I did and make sure it’s an injury where the doctor’s parting words are “And don’t do anything even slightly strenuous for at least the next eight days”.
I’m just glad Mrs B was there to hear it in person, because she wouldn’t have believed me otherwise…