Monday, August 16, 2010

Egyptian Bureaucracy: The Hospital Edition


On Thursday morning, I woke up bright and early to go see the gynecologist for my routine annual check-up. I wanted to go to th private, "international" hospital in Maadi instead of a public hospital. I'd ventured into one of the public facilities once to get some blood work done only to have the receptionist call out the name of all the tests I needed over the loud speaker for everyone to hear, call a 2 other people over to read the doctor's note, and call the doctor on the phone and loudly discuss the tests I needed with him to my chagrin...

Needless to say, when I walked into the glass doors (past 4 security gaurds that line the doorway for some odd reason) of Al Salam International Hospital last Wednesday and saw that it was as modern and uninvitingly stark and cold as any hospital in the U.S., I felt confident that this would be a simple and carefree task. My appointment was set for 10 am. At 10:05 am I walked over to the receptionist to check in. He looked up at me and told me dismissively that the doctor wasn't in today and to return to the front desk and schedule another appointment...I asked if any other doctors were available only to be informed that none had shown up to work yet. I guess no one has pressing medical emergencies at the hospital that would require a doctor show up to work on time or at all for that matter.

I rescheduled my appointment for Saturday at 10 a.m. and this time my roommate also scheduled an appointment for the same time. We arrive at 10 a.m. only to be told that the doctor isn't in yet. The waiting areas is pretty deserted so we grab a seat and wait for the doctor.

-10:30 The doctor is still not in
-11:00 The waiting area has gradually filled up and people mill around waiting for the numbers to be called.      We are told  the doctor will be here in 5 minutes
-11:30 The nurse checks our vitals...still no doctor
-12:00 Guess who shows up to work?! The Doctor!!! He shuffles us both into his office and apologizes profusely for being 2 hours late. He firsts asks my roommate some questions regarding why she's here today. Doctor:Why have you come to visit?
Roomie: I just want a routine pap spear and STD test
Doctor: Why?
Roomie: ...Why?!
Doctor: yes, why do you need this
Roomie: because, I'm sexually active...
Doctor:..Right now!?
Roomie: No, not right now! In general...I'd also like an HIV test
Doctor: Why do you want that? Do you think you've been exposed?!
Roomie: No, in the U.S. it's routine to get one know it can have some serious implications...
12:20- We are both checked out separately and he hands us each the slides to take to the lab ourselves. He says he'll be in on Wednesday and Saturday of next week if we want to come and pick up/discuss the lab results.
- We arrive at the lab in the room a few doors down and we're told that we must first take the slides and forms to the lab upstairs then return downstairs so that my roommate can get her blood drawn for the HIV test
-At the upstairs lab, we are told to go back downstairs, get a stamp on our forms at the cashiers desk, then return with the slides and paperwork
-Downstairs, the cashier tells us he doesn't have the stamp and to check the lab on that floor
-Back at the lab, the secretary at the desk tells us to wait as he finishes his phone conversations
-1:00 once the receptionist is done chatting on the phone, he kindly informs us that he doesn't have the stamp and to go to the cashier. We tell him the cashier sent us to him!
-The lab receptionist fetches the cashier who informs him that he has no idea what any of us are talking about
-Suddenly, the receptionist remembers that he actually does have the stamp we need!
- The receptionists computer has decided that now is the perfect time to malfunction. This sets the process of getting the stamp, which I'm now convinced is some type of mystical creature, back another 20 minutes
-We leave the lab and return to find that the receptionist has put our papers under a stack of forms and is busying himself with other matters. he tells us to wait five more minutes.
-Frustrated, my roommate grabs our forms and slams them on his desk, "I've been here since 10 am! I'm not leaving until you give me the stamp!"
-The receptionist barely looks up at her. "5 more minutes, " he says again and the people in the lab are at the audacity of this foreign woman. i, on the other hand, am both bewildered and amused as I stand in the corner and laugh to myself
-1:50 We get the stamp! The slides and forms are delivered to the upstairs lab
-2:00 My roommate has her blood drawn and the day is finally over! We stumble out of the hospital exhausted after the 4 hour battle

I return on Wednesday evening to get my results. I was surprised to find that the doctor was not there! I was told to go up to the lab to pick up my results. After 20 minutes of searching through several logs, asking different technicians if they'd seen my file, and looking through the system, my lab results were found! The technician handed me the file triumphantly. Bemused, I looked over the scientific jargon and the results. Normal, everything's ok. Casually looking at the computer screen, the technician says, loud enough for the entire lab to hear, "You know you have the HIV..." I felt like someone had just kicked me in my stomach! Trying to remain composed, "What?!"  "The HIV, it's downstairs in the blood lab." Before my life could flash before my eyes, I realized something, "Wait... I didn't take a blood test!" The technician looks at me then looks back at the screen, "Oh, well, thats not for you. Sorry."
WWWWOOOOOOWWWWW...In utter relief, I just laughed hysterically and left!

In the News:
Stifled, Egypt's Youth Turn to Islamich Fervor
Egypt: Officers Accused of Rape
6 African Migrants Killed near Egypt Border, Sinai
Flying taxis in Egypt
In Cairo, End to Cacophany of Call to Prayer
What the Head Scarf Means when Everyone Wears One


The Backpacker said...


Having lived in both Kuwait and Dubai I can tell you that that is very typical Middle Eastern bureaucracy!

A lot of paper shuffling, stamps, notarised documents and passport copies!

Anonymous said...

This is a true story.
Our 2nd floor neighbors had a water pipe leak in the kitchen and sent their servant to bring the plumber from his shop across the street.
The servant was told by the young shop attendant that the plumber should arrive soon (Zamanu Gaii).
This scenario continued on throughout the day with the servant returning back with the same answer...Zamanu Gaii.
The next day our neighbor's husband went over to be given the same answer.
On his way back to the apartment, he mentioned the problem and absence of the plumber to the doorkeeper who responded "the poor plumber died three days ago'.

mina said...

Again, I don't know how you are so patient. I would have lost it after 15 minutes.

Sista in Tokyo said...

Amazing! Love your blog and your writing!

Rochelle Spencer said...

So scary! But, inadvertently, you probably helped the doctor consider suggesting that more of his patients get tested for HIV and other diseases.

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

Wow! That's so crazy. I thought things were complicated in the US but it seems we have it easy peasy over here. I cannot believe he said that out loud and so casually!

george said...

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