Saturday, 13 February 2010

Expat Life: My Experience with the Dutch Health System

As you already noticed, I have been away. This week I have been with a serious cold.

So, I stayed in bed for two days, taking paracetamol, eating soup, drinking orange juice and tea with honey. The first day was terrible with pains all over my body, fever, headaches, expectoration, etc...
Only on the third day I felt well enough to visit my doctor. In my opinion, my immune system was not well because I was very tired with the low temperatures and the many travels during these weeks.

As you already know, in the Netherlands, we must have a family doctor (huisarts) at the health center (gezondheidscentrum) of our neighbourhood (wijk). It is not my case.  I usually go to the International Health Center in Den Haag.

The approach to the patient is more similar to the portuguese one. In my opinion, we are more careful in certain issues. I'm used to do a regular check-up each year, for example.

I like the organization and the good conditions of the public health system in the Netherlands, but I don't like the way the doctors approach to the patient . On the other hand, "below the sea level", there is no private practice as in Portugal, except for dentists, psychologists and complementary medicine. Unhappy with previous situations here and feeling with no options, I began to look for an alternative and a solution to my problem: a doctor that I could trust. And I found it at IHCH!

Yesterday, I went there because of my cold and tiredness. The doctor measured my blood pressure and checked my weight, my heart sounds, my stomach, my throat and ears and asked me to do blood tests to check my immune system and my thyroid. Very professional!

I remember the first time I visited my Dutch huisarts in a normal Dutch health center. I had been feeling very tired for some time and I asked for several exams. She just told me to rest, saying that 90% of the causes to be tired are psycological and I just had a huge change of life, and that 10% are physical ones. My question was how could she know if I was in the 90% or in the 10% without a general check-up and the proper exams? She just said to me if I got worse to come there again.

After a while, I began to have several pains and I went to the Hospital but they didn't make me any exams and just sent me back to the health center. My family doctor was not there and another huisarts took care of the situation. He asked for a specific exam but I needed to wait 3 weeks for the results and he refused to give me something for the pains. Later on, I found out I had a dangerous bacteria. I needed to do a strong treatment with a type of penicillin. However, I am allergic to it, as I had wrote in my dossier and I thought it was register in the computer. So, I had problems again.
After these stories, I decided to look for a solution. I found it in a blog. My solution was IHCH.

Ai IHCH we can ask for a normal anual check-up and get it!!

They listen to you carefully :-)

Until now, nobody said to me " The appointment is only 10 minutes and if you need more time, you must schedule two appointments."

You can find English, French, Spanish, Dutch, even Arabic speaking doctors.

I remember once in the hospital a conversation with a "very nice doctor": "You don't speak Dutch, that is a huge problem!". I said to her I was learning the language and that Dutch was not an easy language. "I will speak in Dutch. When you don't understand, just ask, I wil translate it in English." And I said: "No! My Dutch is level A1 and this is a health issue. I don't know medical words in Dutch! It is my health, I am concerned with it and I don't need to be more anxious with this situation."

IHCH also has complementary medicines as homeopathy, Alexander tecnique and acupuncture.

I remember the first time I asked my huisarts about homeopathy and acupuncture. She told me she didn't believe in that. I didn't ask her if she believed or not. I just asked her where I could get an appointment for it. As far as I know, WHO ( World Health Organization) recognizes the benefits of acupuncture.) Sometimes, I do acupuncture here, in Almere! It is so good to relax! I don't like to take pills. I prefer to get my balance in a more natural way! And I am very pleased with my dear E.

My gynaecology appointments are also in IHCH. My doctor is very good and I can do my annual eco and pap test with him, with no need to go first to the huisarts. Heel Goed!

And you? What is your story with the Dutch Health System? Do you want to share it? Giving extra information, corrections, etc...? Please, do!

Have a nice weekend! ;-)


~ Lopa said...

Awww, Sandra i hope you are back to your great state of health by now.

Well we did our registration here with physician but my husband did all the formalities for both of us and i haven't seen my doctor yet with whom i am registered !

I need to do my registration with Dentist yet, which i have been delaying and i know i have to soon :(

Only doctor I have seen here is when i went for TB Tests (Tuberculosis, legally required for registration at Den Haag hospital after moving here.

My papa is a doctor and hence i have this bad habit of taking all prescriptions on phone from him, and still i am not very comfortable with the idea of going to other doctor, but i think i have too soon. As now when i call on long distance he also keep asvising me why don't i go and consult a local doctor...hehehe
But somehow my heart keeps saying, no doctor can know me better than my dad :)

Presépio no Canal said...

Lovely story, Lopa ;-) ))

That is what we call in Portugal " jogar em casa" (Play at home?).

With my dentist, I am very pleased. :-)

TB tests ...they don t ask me for it, but I took vacines some years ago.

Thank you for share your experience ;-)

Margarida Elias said...

E nós ainda dizemos mal do nosso sistema de saúde... De facto (e ainda bem) nalgumas coisas até estamos em forma. Muitas melhoras da gripe! Bjs!

Presépio no Canal said...

Obrigada, Margarida! :-)

Em Portugal, ha muitas campanhas de informacao e de educacao para a saude, mais o que se estuda na escola ( nos ainda somos do tempo da disciplina de Saude no 9 ano-era opcional, bem sei- mas tambem muita da materia era estudada em biologia do unificado).
Tambem me parece que somos mais cuidadosos com os check-ups anuais gerais e ginecologicos. E temos mais a-vontade para pedir um determinado exame ao medico e escolher como queremos fazer uma analise (com seringa ou vacuo).
O acompanhamento das gravidas tambem e diferente. Aquelas que conheco aqui, disseram-me que a nenhuma foi testada a imunidade a rubeola e a toxoplasmose... e parece que so fazem duas ecos em vez de tres...fiquei pasma!
No caso da rubeola, quando se descobre que nao se e imune, e necessario tomar a vacina e esperar dois meses para fazer novo teste a imunidade. Standard Procedure em Portugal... algumas coisas por aqui apanharam-me de surpresa!

Beijinhos ;-)

Unknown said...

Wishing you better health! Beterschap! And good for you for standing up for your health & the language barriers. This is really important for all of us, as we are in the process of learning the language, to understand what we're being told. 100%!

Presépio no Canal said...

Thank s Isabella! Health is a serious issue. I don t want to take risks with it because of misunderstood. In my opinion, is also unpolite, at minimium, to create more anxiety to the patient. Sorry, but no! Sense and Sensibility matters! ;-)
Beijinhos ;-)

Dünya said...


Tenho uma expriencia semelhante em que o meu huisarts me disse para tomar um paracetamol para a dor de cabeça que tinha há uma semana (como se eu nao conseguisse pensar nisso sozinha!) Depois disso e com as dezenas de histórias que ouvi desisti do sistema de saúde holandes e sempre que vou a Portugal vao ao medico de familia, dentista, ginecologista... irrita-me um bocado ter de pagar seguro de saude aqui (e nao é nada barato) mas nao tenho paciencia sinceramente! Mas agora que li a tua descriçao acho que vou passar por Den Haag pelo centro que mencionaste. Obrigado pela dica ;)
E as melhoras :)

Presépio no Canal said...

Ola Catarina :-)

Espero que corra tudo bem por Den Haag :-) Comigo, ate a data, cinco estrelas!
O meu dentista ja e aqui em Almere e estou muito satisfeita com ele.

Boa Semana :-)

Unknown said...

Oh well, at least you have this international health centre you can rely on. I, too, find the attitude of doctors here, annoying. Take some rest, have a paracetamol.... is all they say, no matter if you have pains that sound like apendicitis or if you have periocarditis....

I remember the first time I went to the gynaeco, she explained how I should get on the strechter and what she was going to do, as if it'd be my first time... hello? Back home we are also used to having regular check-ups and you don't have to go down on your knees to ask the doctor to order any tests.

Anita said...

Hoi Sandra,
I go to Brazil every two years and do my gyneco exams there (and my teeth check up as well - my mom is a dentist). If I have a problem of course I go to a huisarts here. This current one we "have" him for 3 years - he is verey good, asks a lot, checks a lot of things. The following text I am sending you in Dutch is real,; it's is from a friend of mine and I received it today. It gives you a picture of how incompetent they can be. The patient has been to 8 doctors before he could have the right diagnosis about his heart. Check this out:
"We hebben inmiddels weer een hobbel in de privésfeer overwonnen:
X is de laatste week van januari in het ziekenhuis beland met hartklachten en 3 dagen daarna gedotterd. Er bleek toch een ader van de (hart)kransslagader vernauwd te zijn.

Hij had al sinds begin december klachten maar werd niet serieus genomen, alle dokters (inclusief cardioloog! ) vertelden ons dat het stress was. We hebben echt wel 8 verschillende dokters gesproken maar er is nooit goed gekeken. Gelukkig is X op tijd in het ziekenhuis opgenomen, hij heeft geen hartschade opgelopen. Het is nu bijna 3 weken terug en hij herstelt goed maar het zal nog wel even duren voordat hij weer de oude is (...)"

Presépio no Canal said...


that is hilarious! ahah I do my gineco exams since I was a teenager. It is a question of prevention, more important when we have a cancer history in the family, like me.


thanks for the email and the translation of the main ideia ;-) Wow!!! Scary, at least! Poor man! Oh dear!
Que susto, Meu Deus! Ai, credo, mulher, que horror! Sem palavras...

Orangesplaash said...

Wish you a speedy recovery. Do take care of your health and thanks for sharing this. I like the Dutch health care system too.

Presépio no Canal said...

Hello, Arwa :-)

Oh!! I just write the post about our meeting :-)

Well, I must say that my experience with Dutch doctors was not very good, but I like the conditions and the equipments of the hospitals, etc...
In Almere, the Hospital seems like a Hotel ;-)

I also like the fact that each neighbourhood has got its own health center. Heel goed!

But the attitude of the doctors towards disease and the patients, I don't like very much.

I like IHCH! My experience there is heel positief ;-)

Very goed, indeed! ;-)

Beijinhos ;-)