Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is there a doctor in the house?

Before we moved to Mui Wo, we asked a friend who had lived in the area for 20-odd years: "Which doctor do you see if you fall ill?" He replied: "I try not to get sick."

Mui Wo has a lot of amenities but, astonishingly given the big expat population with private health insurance, it doesn't have a full-time private clinic. There is a Dr Alex Kwok (Tel: 2984-7530), but the last time we checked out his opening hours, it was something weird like 5pm to 8pm. And given how pissy Hong Kong companies are about getting that sick note, you can't afford to wait till the working day is almost over before you can try for one.

The only other private clinics are in Tung Chung (a long winding road away – not an option when you're feeling sick and nauseous) or Discovery Bay (a half-hour ferry ride away – again, not ideal when you're running a high fever and just want to get a doctor's visit over and done with).

There is another option: the Mui Wo government clinic (Tel: 2984-2080).

So the other day, when I was feeling like someone had whacked me over with a ton of bricks with the words "cold" all over them, I opted for that. It was a mere five minutes' walk away and I could be there and back in my nice warm bed in an hour, tops.

How wrong I was. I was there at 8.30am for registration and was told to queue up in the marked chairs. When the counter opened 15 minutes later, I shuffled forward to get my number. WTF?? I was No 36 and my appointment time: 11.15am.

The nurse saw my crestfallen appearance and advised me to go home and come back again at 11am. So I took my aching bones home, called the office and told them I might (but only might) not be able to go in to work. I wouldn't know for sure till I saw the doctor two hours later. There were sniffs of disbelief on the other line... so long before seeing a doctor?!

Anyway, I was there and waiting for my appointment at 10.45am. In that time, the numbers had hardly moved. It was just No 18. A long wait ahead. But by then I was committed so I hung on.

It didn't help that the clinic was full of inhabitants from the old folks home nearby. Each one took an excruciating amount of time to hobble to the door when their number was called. Another number, another surprised look, a fumble for all the plastic bags around them, shuffle, shuffle... the queue to hell couldn't move any slower.

By the time my number came, it was 12.30pm. Half a day had gone by – which the company would have deducted from my salary had I not been able to get a sick note from the doctor. By the time my time came, I was sick, not just from the virus but from apprehension. Thankfully I got my medical certificate and could go home and rest.

The staff were nice and the young doctor was knowledgeable. But next time I think I'll just catch the taxi to Tung Chung for the excellent Human Health clinic there.

Or try not to get sick.

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