It is the middle of the afternoon on a Monday and I am sitting in a café in a southern part of Düsseldorf I never usually go to. If you think that sounds great…I’m sorry to disappoint you. I am not here because I have a day off and chose to explore the city. I am here because I am supposed to see a specialist.
This is the third one for the same matter so I am already used to agreeing to appointments on any day at any time in any part of the city. Can I drop everything and come at half an hour’s notice? Of course I can.
But this time, that was not enough. There are two specialists for this in Düsseldorf. In all of Düsseldorf. That means two doctors for probably a million people (if you count the surroundings).The first one told me on the phone that she couldn’t give me an appointment before next year. „Um, okay, then I guess I will wait three months. Can you give me something in January?“ I asked ”No, I can’t give out appointments for 2019 before December first this year. You have to call again”. Because I deemed the risk of calling in two months and possibly being told the first appointment available is in March too high, I called my general practitioner. You can call her once a day between 12.30 and 1 pm and you spent 12:31 to 12:59 in the phone queue. I manage eating my lunch while having one ear on the phone. ”You have to literally go to the specialist at 8 before they open and ask them to give you an appointment. I know it’s kind of far to go there but if you stand right before them, chances are they won’t just send you away“. She also gave me a letter from her expressing the specialist should really really see me. (If you are at this point worried that I have a terminal illness – I don’t. Or at least I don’t think so. A specialist would maybe know for sure.)
So I was gonna travel to the doctor’s office at dawn, armed with letters by two doctors, begging them to give me an appointment. What if they said no? Was I going to throw myself on the floor of the specialist’s practice and throw a tantrum? How do other people get an appointment? I am telling you, this never happens in Grey’s Anatomy and the U.S. health care system’s reputation is worse than the German’s.
This morning, I showed up. The friendly receptionist smiled. She looked at the doctors’ notes. ”You can come back at 2 p.m. We have a walk-in open hour then for new patients. You’ll have to be prepared to wait“. I nodded obidiently and rode the subway 30 minutes back.
I am lucky I have overtime hours to take out and work that I can take with me. It is only therefore I was able to leave work after lunch and head 30 minutes back to the doctor‘s. I was ten minutes early, I was proud. As I walked up to the house, I saw a queue. There must be some apartment viewing. Wow, times keep getting worse if more than 40 people wait to see an apartment in this kind of far off part of town, I thought.
As I came closer, I saw. German cities do not only have a constantly intensifying housing problem. We also seem to have a health care crisis. These 43 people in front of me were queuing for the walk-in at the doctor’s. At first, I was too flabbergasted to do anything but stare with wide eyes. Eventually, I took out my Kindle and started to read. It took me 25 minutes to get inside the practice. It took me an hour until they had registered me. That means I spent an hour in line before even getting an estimate on how long I would have to wait to see a doctor. 70 minutes after my arrival to the scene, the receptionist chirped, „You can go get some fresh air. There’s a nice cafe next door. Come back in 90 minutes“.
Rarely have I been so glad to have my Kindle with great books from the L.A. Public Library (thanks, Emily!) with me. Seldom have I appreciated being able to work remotely this much. Oh, and the café is nice. I would know, I’ve been here for a while. I wonder if the doctors get commission.