Wednesday, April 27, 2011

When you can't take healthcare for granted

It's been a while since I posted a blog, but that doesn't mean there was nothing to tell, I was just to swamped with a lot of other things.

As you might know I'm from the Netherlands, a tiny and overcrowded country in Europe. Our system is one of "the strongest shoulders should carry the most weight" which in itself is a nice system but it has its drawbacks. I think that our healthcare system is pretty good, albeit not perfect, but to be honest I wouldn't know where its real flaws are and what to do about it. President Obama has used our system as a reference for how he wanted to reform their system, which at the least means that somebody else but me likes it.
Anyway, in Holland you call a doctor when you think you need one. When you're seriously sick you call an ambulance which has professional and skilled personel on board which will take you to a good hospital that will take good care of you. You're released from the hospital when the doctor thinks you're cured and until then you're in good care enjoying 3 healthy meals a day and your major concern is whether or not you should subscribe for the duration of your sray to the TV service. Because you're insurrance doesn't cover it. Everything else is covered, no worries about illnesses or whatsoever. You spend more than half your life in hospitals? Don't worry, you're insurred. No insurrance company can refuse to take you as a client.
When you have children, they're covered free of any charge until they're 18 years old.

There's a small catch but I won't get into that, as it doesn't matter for this post.

Now we go south about 3,000 km and think about the same. Mind that in the Netherlands everybody is covered and this is handled by having the more wealthy people paying more taxes than the less fortunate and the unemployed etc get a healthcare tax refund.

It's not that 'it goes without saying' here in Egypt. Healthcare is not a commodity to everybody. Medical insurance is part of your package when you join a company. Ambulances are always stuck in traffic, but I have been told that the ambulance is merely a micro-bus in different colors and its less crowded. When you follow my tweets ( you know that occasionally I get worked up on all these drivers in Cairo that don't move out of an ambilance's way to let it pass. I sometimes feel that worst case scenario in a Cairo traffic accident is that you survive it and need to be hospitalized.

So how am I getting at this point, well the other day somebody, John Doe, told me that his sister was very ill and he had to drive her all over town (and believe me, Cairo is a big town) to various hospitals and doctors to have her examined. This was after a pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage. The pregnancy already was very hard and complicated and she had already spend quite a bit of time in hospitals. After the miscarriage it became worse and a few time John Doe had told me that his sister had been in the hospital for a couple of days. It was really bad and no doctor was able to diagnose and treat her. After about a week they finally found a doctor that recognized her illness and she was to be operated on a very short term because her life was in the balance.
And this is where you're shocked that there was hesitation, but there was. And it was all about not being able to pay for the treatment. No there is no insurance appearantly for this lady to rely on and get the proper treatment. Her husband already spend all their savings to get her examined and diagnosed, and now she had to rely on her brothers to get the money for an operation. Pieces of properties needed to be sold, loans had to be taken and salaries in advance had to be asked for.
Recently I learned that her current condition is far from good. She's got an infection now and needs medical attention again. A distant uncle has sold one of their lifestock and they're now bargaining with the hospital to get a better deal on the operation because they can't afford it at the current price.
And the real issue here is that this lady is not a rare exception as she would be in the Netherlands, but for millions of Egyptians this is their life. And I would say that if not for anything else, the changes that are now taking place in Egypt although as a foreigner I don't see that much except for a lack of police in the streets, should be to address this. I think that Egyptian government, which ever it is and however it gotten into that position, should use the many resources of this country to help the less fortunate in improving their life, up to a level where you can take healthcare for granted.