The (lack of) efficiency of the public healthcare in Malaga


This is what happened when I got cold in Malaga and I went to the doctor because my friends were busy telling me that drinking hot tea with lemon and ginger and staying in bed is not enough to get better.

I went to the medical center of the district where I live. I was already registered to the social security system and I had the green healthcare card, so I just went to the reception and asked for an appointment while giving the lady my healthcare card with my name and social security number on it. I told that I have problems with my throat, I have fever and I need an appointment for today.

The receptionist lady told me that come back at 13:00 go to the examination room 9. Normally when I solicit an appointment I get a printed confirmation, but this time I didn’t receive anything. Anyway, I can remember that 13:00 and room 9.

As a good guiri I showed up at 13:00 and within a few minutes I was in the examination room with the doctor. She asked my name and since I have a foreign name, I gave her my healthcare card so she can see it printed along with my social security number. This way it’s easier for her to find me in the system then fooling around with spelling.

She asked what’s wrong, I told that I am coughing, I have a fever my nose is blocked, typical symptoms of a common cold. She looked at my throat, listened to my lungs and then confirmed that indeed I got cold, so I should stay in bed, drink a lot and she prescribed some stuff as well.

I asked her what did you prescribe?
She told me that one of them is antibiotics, another is a painkiller/feel-better complex and the third is some gooey stuff that helps clearing up my throat.
So I asked her that do I have a bacterial infection?
She said no, but my body is weakened by the virus and it’s easy to get bacterial infection on the top of the current one, so that is why I am getting antibiotics. I was not objecting, because that is not my job, but…

Personally, I don’t believe in alternative medicine, I rather put my bet on chemicals when it comes to making some bug go away. I am also not a crazy anti-vaxer. I am not trying to convince anyone of anything, it’s just my way of dealing with illnesses. However, I like to know what do the doctors prescribe, so I google everything, what is it, what does it do and why does it do that? I also pay attention what the doctor’s say. Pretty much I got cold every year, so I know what is happening and why… that is how I know that the common cold is caused by a virus and there is no medicine to cure that, it’s up to your immune system to get rid of it.

Antibiotics are only good to fight bacteria, it’s completely useless against viruses, moreover it’s a huge problem world-wide that we use (mostly misuse) too much antibiotics and that result in more resistant bacteria, which are giving less and less fuck about the antibiotics that we throw at them. For example in my country doctors barely prescribe antibiotics, unless you have some really serious bacterial infection that can not be treated otherwise. They do this not because they want you to suffer more, but because they want to keep the life saving antibiotics as efficient for you as possible.

This Spanish doctor however is giving away antibiotics like it’s candy. Anyway, she has a medical diploma not me, who am I to argue, so I said thank you and took the printed prescription with me. On the way home I went to a pharmacy to get the medicine, where I had this unexpected conversation:

– Hello, I need these medicine, thx.
– Your healthcare card please.
– Here you go.
– Oh, this prescription is not for you. Your name, birth date and social security number is different.
– WTF?

Then I looked at the paper that the doctor gave me, and indeed it had someone else’s name on it, and every data was completely off, not even close to mine. So it was not a single typo, it was totally wrong data. The pharmacist lady told me that she can’t give me the stuff, unless I get it fixed.

I went back to the medical center, without minding the queue I went in to the doctor, told her that the prescription is wrong. She looked it, looked at her computer, and told me that I don’t have an appointment for today, only this guy with the completely different name. So even if she wants she can’t print a new prescription for me, unless I go back to the reception ask for a new appointment and then going back to her to ask a new prescription. OMG!

So I went to the reception again, showed my card, asked the lady to make sure soliciting an appointment for me, not for someone else to the examination room 9 right now. Then I went back to the doctor who printed the new prescription and then again to the pharmacy where I got the medicine this time.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have serious doubts about the competency of the doctors in Malaga. Yes, I know that people can make mistakes, I make mistakes as well. But I gave her my healthcare card with my name and social security number right before she examined me, so how could she possible miss it completely? And if she was making mistakes with my name, then how much should I trust her medical opinion about my condition, especially after prescribing antibiotics like nobody’s business?

This was not the first time when I had the feeling that the quality of the attention that I got was maybe not up the standard. A few months before I needed a doctor because I had three different problems that I wanted them to check out. So I went to the receptionist to get an appointment as usual and they sent me to examination room 23. Even if I was looking for it, I could not find it, but after asking a nurse they told me that it’s separate from all other rooms, there…

I went to room 23, which turned out a fertility/couple doctor’s room. There were couples waiting and there was me alone who has no intention having a baby. So I went back to the reception saying that it must be some misunderstanding because I have no problems with my reproduction system, I don’t want a baby or anything like that, not even a dog. She told me that it’s fine, that is my place, just wait in the queue.

After some couples, it was my turn, so I went in to the examination room, where there was this funky looking chair for ladies, where the gynecologist does it’s job and I was still uncomfortable and asking myself that what the hell I am doing here? So I told the doctor that I don’t want a baby, but I have a birthmark on my back that itches constantly, I also did some sports two weeks ago and I still have sharp piercing pain in one of my arms which is certainly not muscle-fever and my throat is sore. So these are the three problems that I have.

She looked at my back, arm and my throat and then she prescribed Ibuprofen.
Wow! I mean… it looks like it doesn’t matter what kind of problems someone has, the solution is Ibuprofen. I can imagine her at the medical university learning one word for year: I…b..u..p..r..o..f..e..n.

And then the final exam to get the diploma:
There is a patient with three unrelated symptoms, what would you prescribe?
a) Ipubrofen
b) Ibuprofen
c) I send the patient to another doctor so they can prescribe Ibuprofen for him.

As you can guess, so far I don’t have very positive opinion of the public healthcare in Spain, I am not surprised that many people go to private doctors and hospitals. But maybe it’s just me, that I am a magnet of surviving Malaga stories. If you also have a story, please share in the comments!


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Written by Surviving Malaga

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