Friday, March 18, 2011

Public / private healthcare observation

Today we went to a private hospital followed by a public health clinic.

Zozó wrecked up her big toe on her right foot two nights ago. She was returning from some travel and while dragging her heavy rolling suitcase up the stoop to her apartment, she yanked it over her foot and (since she always wears open-toe shoes) ripped open her toe (and nearly tore off her nail) – OUCH! But it was 2:00 in the morning, so she took one for the team, wrapped her foot and went to bed.

The next morning she called me to come help her clean and dress her wound. It was NASTY! I got her comfortable, and then I went to the pharmacy to get what I needed to attend to her toe and the pain it was giving her.

Then today we thought it best to take her to the ambulatory urgent care center at a nearby private hospital to make sure we were not in over our heads. I waited in the air conditioned waiting room and enjoyed a coffee from the machine in the corner while Luiz and his mother were seen within about 10 minutes. We did not have an appointment.

The doctor took off Zozó’s toenail, cleaned up the torn flesh and wrapped her up. But for some reason they referred us to a public health clinic for Zozó to get a tetanus shot. I have no idea why they did not just give her one there on site.

A quick bus ride later we were dropped off in front of the public clinic. The line in front of us had about 20 people in it. No air conditioning, in fact, the waiting area was outside with cement benches. No coffee machine (or drinking fountain for that matter).

Zozó never lets a line stop her from walking right up to the front to inquire about the best course of action. Being a senior female with a bandaged toe and a story long enough to stall the line for 20 minutes, they decided to escort her to the nurses giving shots (Hep B, rabies, flu shots, baby vaccinations, and tetanus). In spite of the line we were in and out in less than 15 minutes.

Work it girl!

There is definitely a gulf between the realities of private and public healthcare here in Brazil, but if you’ve got a no-nonsense 79 year old Brazileira (whose middle name is jeitinho) on your team, you can often bridge some of the gap.


Anita said...

But I guess in the whole world aged people and pregnant women have priority, right ?

Rachel said...

I do look forward to growing up into an old Brazilian woman. I know I'm American but I insist that I get to become one of those sassy Brazilian old ladies. After that many years in Brazil, it's my right!

Gil and Ray said...


You are correct, Brazil has laws to make sure the elderly, the handicaped, pregnant women and women carrying small children don't stand in line, they get right up to the front of the line in Banks, Hospitals and any other place with a line.


This story reminds me of the phrase "Brazil is not for beginners" ;)
Zozo is no beginner, she definitely knows her rights and takes advantage of them. Good for her.
I think I would definitely give up A/C and water fountains for free Health Care... :)


Gil and Ray said...


In my opinion, you already are a sassy Brazilian lady ;)


Cath said...

Really cool blog. Im Brazilian but i live in Ireland and unfortunately the elderly, pregnant women and disabled are not so respected, hence whenever I allow people to go on in the supermarket, banks, etc.. the irish usually give me a nasty look.