Saturday, 13 November 2010
handy hints for travellers 14: being in hospital
Hope it doesn't happen to you; but here are my hints if you end up in a public hospital in Moscow. This, of course, is only my experience (and of one particular hospital and I think I was pretty lucky) so would appreciate any additional advice from others...
1. Bring your own cutlery - at the minimum a spoon. Most people had their own plates and cups also. Actually things seemed pretty clean, but I guess only 'washed up' rather than sterilised.
2. Food provided is low-level edible, but good to have extra supplies if possible. Otherwise there was always bread and a very weak, watery coffee available (see photo above).
3. Bring your own nightclothes and 'indoor slob' clothes (must be a better name, but I mean the relatively disreputable but very comfortable stuff most Russians - and me - wear indoors) . I was stripped naked for surgery and felt quite lucky to be given a (temporary) nightgown when I woke up.
4. Remember your slippers - these are essential in any Russian indoor situation, but of course come into their own in hospital. One day I will get the etiquette of when to wear/when to remove, but not yet.
5. Expect few niceties. No curtains around bed, or privacy during examinations. Bed-sheets changed about once a week.
6. BRING YOUR OWN TOILET PAPER!
7. It is assumed you have family or friends who will help out, bring you treats etc. My surgeon asked crossly why my children were not there to help (though I don't see how that would have helped the language problem we were having at the time).
8. Valuables and clothes were 'signed in' before my operation; then taken to some distant and impregnable store. So don't do what I do. Keep your mobile phone and anything else you are going to need immediately after an operation with your clothes. It took me several days to find out how to collect my important stuff (permissions required and much signing of paperwork), that the store closes over the weekend and that I was required to stagger in my pyjamas across the whole hospital campus - a small town in its own right - to personally collect them. I never again want to be stuck in hospital without a phone.
9. Most doctors and nurses will expect some form of tip, with varying degrees of effect on the quality of services provided. I have no idea about amounts, as this was done for me. It certainly relates to the fact that surgeons and doctors seem to be paid below the average wage for Moscow. I couldn't find accurate figures for 2010, but in 2008 doctors in polyclinics were getting 20,000 rubles a month (400 pounds or US$826).
10. The word больно (which I pronounce bolnoi) - meaning (it) hurts- was very useful when I was prodded, along with saying OY, which is the Russian version of OUCH.