In case you didn’t notice, Joanna’s been writing the articles for the past few weeks. This is because I got an unexpected (but enlightening) look at socialized medicine in Poland. It all started when I had to make a trip to the ER in Warsaw..
Basically, since I spend most of my workdays typing on a keyboard, my wrist couldn’t take the strain of me lugging around heavy suitcases and something let go.
The result was a sprained wrist causing me a fair amount of pain and swelling, but no permanent damage – luckily.
Socialized Medicine in Poland: Quality of Care
Let me start by telling you that I received very good care in Poland. The doctor was quite professional and spoke English well. In fact, Joanna tried to come in with me to translate but there was no need for it. He explained everything to me clearly and was very thorough in his examination of my arm and wrist. While a bit spartan, the facilities were clean and well-maintained with modern equipment.
The visit to the ER took only 2.5 hours from start to finish. I have never been to an ER in the US (as a patient, anyway) for less than 4 hours regardless of how few people were in front of me in the queue. As a matter of fact, 8 hours was pretty normal for a trip to ER in USA for us, because we lived near a teaching hospital.
In addition, during my time in Poland’s ER (we were in Warsaw), an ambulance delivered a seriously injured patient (automobile accident). At first, I thought that would have greatly extended my wait time there because my injury was relatively minor. I know it would have in the U.S. However, that was not the case. While they did deal with the injury victim first, they did so quickly and efficiently then got back to me.
All that said, it was a Sunday afternoon and the traffic in the ER was relatively light. I’m sure I would have spent more time waiting if it was Saturday night during or a holiday weekend, but I was still impressed.
Socialized Medicine in Poland: The Bill
After the examination came what I figured would be the most painful part…. paying the bill. We had travel insurance but, it worked by reimbursement, so we needed to pay the whole bill up front and file a claim to get our money back (minus a $100 deductible).
Turns out that the grand total for the trip to the ER, doctor, X-Ray, and casting, was just 340PLN or $89.25 USD!!! We didn’t even meet the deductible limit. When was the last time you took a trip to the ER in the US and came out with less than $100 bill? Even with insurance, your co-pay is probably that much.
At the end of the visit, I received a prescription for some anti-inflammatory drugs and was advised to get a comfortable sling for my arm (the one they gave me was temporary). Doctor also advised me to pick up some pain medication.
We went to a nearby pharmacy and picked up a nice comfortable sling and prescriptions as recommended. The tab for those items was just under 60 PLN or about $15.75 USD!!!
Socialized Medicine in Poland: Comparison to the States
I’m going to close with a comparison of my experience with ER care in Poland to ER care in the US:
- The average cost for a trip to the ER in the U.S. for a similar injury is about $1500 USD!!! I was in and out of there for less than $100 USD.
- The quality of care was on par with care I’ve received in the States.
- The ER was very efficient, I was out of there in around 1/2 the time I expected. In case you’re wondering, the average ER visit in the US is just under 3 hours for non-teaching hospitals.
Being from the States, I’ve often heard about how slow or how poor socialized medicine is when compared to privatized medicine in the US. Well, after trying it out, I’m going to have to disagree with the nay-sayers. The ER care I received was just fine.
If you’re planning a trip to Poland, but have concerns about what happens in case of a medical emergency, I hope my experience helps assuage your fears. And, if you’re traveling around, Europe in general, keep in mind that Poland isn’t even at the top of the list for good medical care in EU. It’s somewhere in the middle.
And if you think my experience was a fluke, well, speak to my father-in-law. He has been living in Poland for the past 17 years and has some very serious, chronic health issues. And, he, too, sings high praises for socialized medicine in Poland. In fact, about 3 years ago, he went to USA to get himself checked out (you know, just in case). He was recommended the same treatments there as he was already receiving in Poland. Sooooo…. yeah.