First Experience With Greek Medical Care

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Hopefully I won’t need medical care in Greece too often – if at all after today, but I did actually need to see a doctor in order to get a prescription for an antibiotic.

Up until about a year or so ago, anyone could walk into a pharmacy in Greece and ask for an antibiotic. The pharmacists would ask about your symptoms and make recommendations and sell it to you. Some Greeks would even stockpile antibiotics to a degree, making sure they had something on hand for any sniffle or sign of an infection – although they are useless against things like the common cold.

Personally, I think it’s a great idea to allow pharmacists to prescribe some medications. Of course, they should also offer the same advice as a doctor that antibiotics should be taken for a full stretch of recommended days, and not merely stopped when symptoms appear to have ceased. Allowing pharmacists to prescribe in my opinion, would take a great deal of stress off the medical system – especially for minor ailments that the pharmacists already knows what drugs will work.

I was not aware of the new regulations that it was no longer possible to obtain antibiotics from a pharmacist in Greece without a doctor’s prescription until a couple of weeks ago. But not only an Rx is needed, it must be some kind of electronic format as well, in order for a pharmacist to accept it legally.

A few weeks ago, I had a boil in an awkward location that began to grow and grow – so large, it finally got as big as a baseball. I’ve had a few boils over the years, but generally they have gone away on their own – but this was starting to concern me very much beyond the pain it caused as well. It was so large, I had serious troubles even walking.

I knew something had to be done, and my companion went out to try to get an antibiotic. However, the pharmacist refused to provide one. Thankfully, a relative had 6 Augmentin 1000 mg – enough for three days, but I really doubted three days would be enough to attack the thing.

It did help considerably after 2 days, and without getting into gory details, there was a tremendous amount of relief in pain – almost suddenly. I had hoped that maybe a 3 day course of the antibiotic might ….might be enough but I had my doubts. I thought I’d also make sure to use all my “natural” remedies for health maintenance by increasing Vitamin C and getting lots of home made yogurt and kefir into me.

But a week later, I realized that while the boil was much improved, I should try to get rid of the thing once and for all in order to not to risk a major infection growth and repeat of what had occurred when it became enormous.

Private Doctors In Greece – Two Tier System

I’m actually happy Greece has a two-tier system. Although I have health insurance, I have no clue what it covers (it’s all in Greek) exactly, and I really didn’t want to take it to a hospital and try to figure out what was what. Instead, we found a local “private” doctor who’s office was able to make an appointment for me for the next day. They advised the fee would be 25.00 Euros.

I thought that was more than reasonable. The office had mentioned that “English was spoken a little…” which was true. It was a little indeed! I think from what we were able to talk about, he could speak more fluent German than English.

The doctor was great, although English was not a language he understood well or was proficient in, and my lack of both Greek and German probably did not help. But, together, we were both able to communicate and he seemed to totally understand what the issue was, what I had done about it already, and after a quick examination, advised me in his opinion, I needed a course of ten days with two different antibiotics.

He then wrote prescribed the two drugs on a piece of paper similar to an Rx paper a doctor in Canada would use, which appears to have his name across the top.

When the appointment was finished, I reached for my wallet to pay him, but he waved me away, and told me not to worry about paying him! I asked him if he was sure; I could pay him and he just told me all was okay. I of course thanked him very much and will remember his kindness.

I was very grateful to him for that and hope I will be able to thank him again although I certainly said, “Efcharisto poli poli!” I hope he knew and understood my genuine thankfulness to him.

Difficulty At The Pharmacy

I walked in with this piece of paper at a pharmacy figuring that would be it and all I needed. But no…. the lady who first attended to me looked at the paper with the Rx on it, and advised me she did not think what I had would work. She then took the prescription and walked over to who I’m guessing was the boss at the pharmacy, and I watched as he did the Greek tongue sound hitting roof of mouth and head slightly move up. Which means, “No.” “Oxi.”

She returned to me, with another piece of paper that looked like some official document and advised me I need this such a paper in order for them to fill the prescription. She told me to go to a doctor; she seemed to think that the paper I had was from a hospital.

I advised her I had no clue what to do, that I simply had just visited a doctor 10 minutes earlier, and this is what he gave me. The “boss” then came over, looked at things, and said, “You need a social security number and an official paper or we cannot fill this.”

With my mask on, I’m sure they could not see my full expression of misunderstanding, but it somehow must have come through. I just repeated that I did not know what to do as this is what the doctor had provided me with, and it was two antibiotics that I needed.

The pharmacist, I guess feeling sorry for me, at first agreed to sell me half the prescription. But that I should try to get a proper paper. I told him that I really appreciated at least the half, but I was very unsure how I would go about doing anything else as I was not a Greek resident. I just needed an antibiotic for a minor condition that needs a bit of help.

At that point, he said “come,” and I followed him to his shop counter and he pulled out the full prescription and said, “This is illegal for me to do, but I know you need this. Please just don’t tell anyone that I am selling you this!”

I felt bad for him at the same time as feeling relieved that he would agree. He obviously did not want to get into trouble, yet at the same time knew I needed somehow to get the prescription filled.

I paid and left, with another Greek to thank. I do have some complaints at times about how things get done here (or, more accurately, not done) but I do know that Greeks in general are a very kind and caring people and every single one that I have come across has been more than willing to help out with communication issues, or anything in general and offer friendship in some way.

Now to see if I can mix ouzo with the antibotic(s)…. 🙂

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