My Polish Doctor Experience

(Right, so, I never finished writing about my summer travels…perhaps I’ll get to it eventually.)

During the time I’ve been in Poland, I’ve had a few colds, but I hadn’t been sick enough to actually need a doctor. This was fortunate, as from what I had heard about Polish medicine, it wasn’t something that I was particularly anxious to experience. Well, unfortunately for me, I managed to come down with a nasty case of the flu, which turned into a persistent cough. After being ill for over 2 weeks, I finally decided (after my parents ordered me to) that I would have to bite the bullet and see a doctor.

Step 1: I googled “English speaking doctors Krakow”. There were some posts in travel forums, but eventually, about five hits down, I noticed a document by the US Consulate in Krakow which listed what it said were English-speaking doctors in Krakow.

Step 2: I tried to do some background research on the few internists on the list. It appeared that one of them was an British expat living in Krakow, so I figured that he would speak the best English and resolved to try to phone him the next morning.

Step 3: Epic fail. First, I rang “Dr Cory”, the British expat, directly on his listed mobile, within the “8am to 3pm” range (it was shortly after 8am). He didn’t answer. I wait 5 minutes and tried again. Still no answer. So, I decided to change tactics and call his practice directly. On their website, which had a remarkably coherent English version, it said that “the majority of MEDICINA’s medical personnel is fluent in English , French , German , Italian or Russian”. I thought I was set. Well, I called directly and said, in Polish, to the woman who answered the phone, “Hello, do you speak English?” Her response: “No.” Click. She simply hung up on me. It was at this point that I flipped out a bit. I was ill, I hadn’t slept a significant amount for about 5 days because of the cough, and I was frustrated. So, for the first time, I cried for a bit. Not a particularly productive response, but it did sort of make me feel better. Once I’d slightly regained my composure, I called one of my friends, who is fluent in Polish, and got her to make an appointment for me. The doctor spoke minimal English, and I’m not actually sure what my diagnosis was because she didn’t know the English words for it. She also said that my lungs sounded clear (they weren’t) and put me on antibiotics that…did absolutely nothing. (I am now in England, where I went to the doctor yet again – this time, I’m actually getting better.)

This may seem like a bit of a rant, but I feel that I have the right to be angry. After all, the Medicina website does state: ”  At Medicina you will meet many of the top specialists in Poland from all fields of medicine. Most speak good or at least reasonable English, but we believe that it is better to be treated by an excellent physician than by an excellent linguist, so if necessary you will be accompanied by an English-speaking nurse or doctor to ensure that nothing is lost in translation!” My friend had explained to them that I spoke only a little bit of Polish, but that was clearly not taken into account. Oh, and I did finally get through to the mysterious “Dr Cory” (I wanted to know if the doctor with whom I had my appointment actually spoke English). He was rather surly, told me that he had no idea, and made absolutely no enquiries about my health when I explained my situation.

In my opinion, this was a very disappointing experience, particularly because I was using information obtained through the US Consulate (and a friend told me that when she was ill, Dr Cory was recommended to her by the international students’ office at our university, although she never went). I would avoid going to a doctor in Poland unless absolutely necessary, and I would take their advice with a grain of salt.


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