I recently had the pleasure of adding a new item to my list of travel experiences. I capped off my last day in Prague with a trip to the hospital in the former Soviet State. Nothing serious, just a little strep throat requiring some antibiotics. Should be pretty simple. Go to a clinic, they swab your throat, 20 minutes later you're out the door with some pills that make you better in a few days. At least that's how it would work back in the States.
First I had to check the internet for English speaking doctors nearby. There is plenty of info in this regards from the expat communities. But most of the places I found required appointments or seemed too complicated to get to considering how crappy I felt. So naturally, I thought to ask the girl at the front desk of the hostel. I mean, she lives here. Surely she would know the best way to get this done quickly. Right away she tells me a place to go. It wasn't on any of the lists I found, but she says they are used to dealing with international tourists. English will be no problem. It's a 20 minute walk or use like three different buses. I'll manage the walk as long as I don't have to go uphill too much.
I get to the place a bit out of breath and wishing I had some water, but I found it without any major detours. It's clearly marked like you would expect of a hospital.
I walk up to the front desk and tell the lady my symptoms and point at my throat and she kind of understands and writes down a room number for me. I get to the room and the doctor, if she really was one, doesn't speak any English and seems annoyed by my presence. Back at the front desk, I eventually get a new destination to check out, with no assurances of anyone speaking English. It's right down the street from one of the places from my internet search, so I have a back up if nothing else.
I get there by taxi and find this...
Does that look like a hospital? No. No, it does not. Does it look like a place where I'm likely to get detained for trespassing? Yes. Yes, it does. I go in the welcoming front doors and walk down the spotless stairs. Wait, there's lots of spots of grime and dried gum blackened by dirt and time.
I start looking around the halls and everything looks pretty much the same.
I see no people except a janitor, who couldn't care less about my presence. I keep waiting for someone to come up from behind and ask me in angry Czech, “What are you doing here? Can't you read? Authorized personnel only! I'm calling security!”.
It never happens, but I can't find anyone or anything to make me think I'm in the right place. So I head down the road and find the, according to the website I checked, number one English speaking clinic in Prague. I go up a flight of stairs and find a door with a nameplate that I assume is for a doctor. I walk in and there is a room with a couple chairs, no people, two more doors. While trying to decide which of these uninviting doors I'll try next, a couple of women come out of one and inform me in pretty decent English, yes this is the doctor's office. No he's not here, come back Monday.
Back to the last hospital. I finally find someone that convinces me a doctor will see me soon enough. I started this journey at 11:30 and it is now almost 3:00. I still haven't eaten all day. But I get in to the doctor. Right away he asks what is wrong. No blood pressure test, no temperature taken, no pulse or heartbeat check, or listening to my breathing. I just tell him my throat hearts, it's got white spots, I have a fever, I think I have strep. He looks in my throat and uses not a wooden popsicle stick tongue depressor, but a piece of metal that looks like it had been salvaged from an old polio leg brace or something. He looks for a few seconds and we're done. He tells me I have tonsillitis. Oh, so it's not strep? He looks at me like I'm an idiot. Yeah, you have tonsillitis. You need antibiotics. I'm no doctor, but I'm pretty sure strep and tonsillitis aren't necessarily the same thing. Whatever, I got what I came for.
The cost of all this rounded to US$: doctor fees $7, taxi roundtrip $13, meds $17.
- Don't get sick in Prague unless you speak Czech.
- Don't give up just because the building you've been taken to looks nothing like a hospital
- You can make more money as a taxi driver than as a doctor.
- There's probably some other gems in there, I'm sure you can figure it out.
Sorry I didn't have pics of the doctor's office. I was never left alone in there and it would have been pretty awkward to snap some photos while the doc was talking to me. But believe me when I say the place looked like it probably still doubled as an interrogation room for the gestapo. Except for the Kermit the Frog doll sitting on top of the computer, of course. All of the people I dealt with except for the first doctor that didn't speak any English and seemed annoyed were very patient and helpful.