Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Human Doctor vs The Veterinarian

A few months ago, I decided to buy a dog. I don't want to get into the social implications of having a dog today, that's for another blog. What I do want to talk about is the professionalism and thoroughness dog's veterinarian displayed.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine had a baby. The father joked that they had taken their newborn son to the vet's for some injections in order to save money. This got me thinking of Homer Simpson in the freak show when his manager says: "Homer, nothing's more important to me than the health and well being of my freaks....I'm sending you to a vet." I mentioned this quote to the father and we started discussing how good vets were in this country (he has 2 dogs) and how our dogs got better treatment than we could ever dream of in Indonesia.

Anybody who has lived in Indonesia for any amount of time soon realizes that the medical system and doctors themselves here are a joke. Their main priority is to make money and to sell you as many drugs as possible. Personally, I try to avoid going to the doctor unless it is completely necessary. Otherwise, you end up with a handful of prescription medication (mostly useless), lighter in the wallet, and not cured of your ailment. In Indonesia, the best treatment available is to fly to Singapore and go to a hospital there.

The average trip to the doctor, even one in a good hospital, often results in getting a bag with 4 or 5 different kinds of pills. The doctor will spend 1 minute examining you and they don't bother to ask you any questions about how you feel or what your symptoms are. If you are not seriously ill, they will assume that you have the illness known as *INSERT NAME HERE*! They write you a prescription with 2 words on it which magically turns into 5 types of pills at the pharmacy counter. They will also advise you to come back if the medicine doesn't make you feel better so that they can sell you some more medicine.

Having such a large arsenal of pills reminds me of my grandparents having those pill containers with the days of the week helping them remember when to take which one of their numerous prescriptions. I usually look up the scientific names of the medication on the Internet and realize that most of them are useless in relation to my illness. One time, I went to a doctor because I couldn't hold food down. They prescribed me ulcer medication, a pain killer, anti-inflammatory pills, antibiotics and Mylanta tablets (which I could have bought for 5 times cheaper at the store next to my house). I ended up throwing out most of them and taking the Mylanta while waiting my illness out. I doubt the pharmacist even checked for any kind of drug interaction.

The veterinarian on the other hand asked me countless questions about my dog's eating habits, sleep patterns, bowel movements and general attitude. Without prompt, she advised what do if this or that were to happen. She then asked if I had any questions (which I did) and thoroughly answered every one of them. She also showed me how to clean my dog's ears and mentioned that my dog could have optional surgery to correct an eye problem. Note the word optional. She said that if I didn't want my dog to have the surgery, she could prescribe some eye drops (also optional).

The vet then gave the dog his scheduled round of injections, told us when we would have to return for more injections, and gave us a very reasonable bill. They gave me an emergency number to call and told me where to buy ear cleaner (if I wanted). She could have lied and said that she had given the dog 6 kinds of vaccinations and I would have been none the wiser and paid the bill.

I walked out of the office wondering why I had never received treatment even close to that good in Jakarta. This made me wonder if I should start visiting the vet when I feel unwell in order to get a sensible prognosis and accurate prescription. The next visit to the vet 3 weeks later further fueled my theory. The doctor remembered everything about my dog, inspected his ears to see how well I had been cleaning them and knew exactly much he had grown since last seeing him. Again, she gave me sound advice and answered my questions about taking my dog on a trip to the beach. I wonder if my puppy dog has any idea how good he has it. I fear that, despite my youngish age, my dog may outlive me if I ever have any serious medical problems and that he will be properly diagnosed way before I ever will.

Thinking about all of this is giving me a headache. So I am going to do what Indonesian people do when they feel ill: pakai obat (take medicine). Panadol, the Indonesian version of Advil is know to cure anything from acne to migraines to yellow fever.

1 comment:

  1. I've noticed that too about the vets in this country. I'd trust my cat's vet over all the human doctors I've met in this country:) Maybe they should make the human doctors train with the vets in Indonesia:)