On Tuesday I had an opportunity to experience the health care system in Port Antonio. I contracted an itchy rash (on my chin) and decided I needed to see a doctor. Actually, the process began last Thursday when I called the phone numbers in my Peace Corps Medically Approved doctors folder. I called the first doctor on the list and no one at the hospital had heard of him. I called the second number and the phone repeatedly had a busy signal so I decided I would try again later.
Thursday night I was walking in town with a friend and decided to drop in to the doctor’s office and make an appointment. I was told by the nurse that an appointment was not necessary, that I could just walk in. That sounded easy enough so I decided I would do just that.
On Monday I headed uptown before going to work. I arrived at the doctor’s office at about 10:30 a.m. and the waiting room was full! There wasn’t even standing room. I decided I would not stay but would instead get up early on Tuesday and arrive at the office by 9:00 a.m., the time it opened.
Tuesday arrived and I left my house at 8:45 a.m. and took a taxi uptown. Ordinarily, I would walk but I wanted to be sure to arrive promptly at 9:00 a.m. Frequently, the route taxis will take you straight uptown. Sometimes, however, they will stop for other fares. Evidently my taxi driva had his own plan and went to pick up some other passengers. Perhaps they were regulars he picks up daily. At any rate, I arrived at the doctor’s office at 9:07 a.m. and much to my dismay, the waiting room was again full! I counted and there were 9 people in line ahead of me. Initially, I was patient and sat in the waiting room and relaxed. At 10:00 a.m. I did some mental calculations and thought I would probably be able to get in to work by 11:00.
At 11:00 a.m. it became clear I would not be leaving any time soon so then I thought, perhaps I’d be done by noon. That’s when I decided to do a more realistic time calculation – if there were 9 people ahead of me and each appointment appeared to be taking (on average), 30 minutes, I would not be seen before 1:30 p.m. I was captive. I couldn’t leave now because this was my 4th attempt to see the doctor.
So I sat, and waited. Lunch time came and went and I did not want to leave my seat let alone go outside of the office to get something to eat.
Finally, at 1:45 p.m. I was called in to see the doctor! He asked me how I was doing and in typical polite American form I said, “I’m good.” Then he said, “If you’re good, why are you here?” He had a point. I then told him about the rash I had and he took a look at it. It appears I picked up ringworm somewhere. It had spread on my chin and was extremely itchy. He prescribed a topical antibiotic for me and I was on my way. All in all, a very pleasant appointment with the doctor (despite the nearly 5-hour wait.)
Oh, the silver lining? I found out I’ve lost 13 lbs. since being in Jamaica 🙂