Kinder, gentler healthcare

The upside of catching a nasty flu bug on my last week in New Zealand was getting a genuine glimpse inside a health care system outside the USA for the first time. Without getting into the pros and cons of socialized medicine, the experience was profoundly more humane and comfortable than I’m used to:

  • When I walked into the medical facility, they simply asked me if I would like to see a doctor and I said yes. There was no awkward, open-ended ‘May I help you?’ or anyone asking me to explain my medical condition in detail in front of a waiting room full of people.
  • I was asked to fill out a form with my name, address, and phone number, along with a checkbox asking if I was a citizen or resident. That’s it. There was no clipboard with 15 pages of forms, medical histories, privacy notices, and disclaimers for me to read and fill out. They didn’t require any photo id or any personal identification numbers. 
  • The waiting room was quiet, with no TV blaring, and with comfortable seats. There was a seriously hard-core ventilation system to help keep the air fresh and to help keep everyone from catching everyone else’s germs.
  • When they were ready for me, the actual doctor walked out and called my name and I walked back with him to the examination room. Much preferred to someone else calling my name and stuffing me in a room where I’d wait, mostly naked except for a cheap paper gown, sitting on an uncomfortable examination table with a sheet of butcher paper on top of it.
  • The examination room was very roomy and comfortable, with a desk for the doctor and his computer, a comfy chair for me, and an examination table off to the side. It was very warmly lit, rather than with harsh fluorescent lights. 
  • I saw two different doctors on my two visits and they were both very personable, methodical, patient, and very good listeners. I never felt rushed like I almost always do when visiting a doctor.
  • Filling my prescriptions took less than 5 minutes. Why it always takes 20-30 minutes in the US has always baffled me, even if the pharmacy is not busy at all. Who wants to stand around in a pharmacy for a half hour when you feel like crap?

It was a completely stress-free experience, which is exactly what someone who doesn’t feel well needs.

Random observations on New Zealand

I visited New Zealand for the first time and spent 7 weeks there, mostly staying in people’s homes and cottages. Here are some random observations from my trip:

  • Bathrooms are astonishingly clean and nice, even many of the outhouses in the national parks. There are also heaps of public bathrooms.
  • On the South Island, you can drive for hours and sometimes not see another car.
  • Kiwis are generally humble about their country, up-front about its shortcomings, and proud of its achievements, but at the same time they are not patriotic.
  • When someone describes a place is “touristy”, that means there are great restaurants and they are open late.
  • It is far easier to understand the New Zealand dialect than it is to understand someone from the Deep South in the US.
  • I heard, saw, and felt no frustration, anger, or irritation from anyone. I never felt rushed.
  • Kiwis are sharply divided on their opinions of Queenstown, a ski resort town on the South Island. Some love it, some hate it. We hated it.
  • Ferns, mosses, lichens, and grasses are more stunningly beautiful than I ever thought possible.
  • The food here is excellent, significantly better than I expected, even in very rural or remote areas.
  • Kiwi guys are unquestionably hotter than American guys (but after much deliberation, I decided to stay with Eric).

Dedication

Books have dedications at the beginning, so I thought I’d start off by dedicating this to the following people, in no particular order.