I had the pleasure of making a second trip in my time here to the Tokai University Hospital in Yoyogi, this past week.
Turns out, I need a chest X-ray to apply for a job. This struck me as really strange (because I don’t smoke), but some people tell me that some organizations have a TB test, just in case. (Since this one is in education, it makes sense.)
My concern was I needed to get the test the same day as the day I needed to share the results. Oh no!
I thought and thought about it, and I couldn’t figure out where I could get this. So I checked the (American) Embassy site to see if they had posted a list of health clinics in the area for those of us not quite fluent yet by any means.
Sure enough. America has a requirement for obtaining some sort of visa or green card that you get a physical. And there was a clinic on the list that would give you a same-day appointment. Ah, but you would have to wait for the result, maybe four days. This might have had to do with Golden Week, though.
(Golden Week is the three-workday holiday coming up. It may sound like Japan has a lot of national holidays, but I don’t think so. In fact, for how tough it is to get time off, I think these Golden Week days are a saving grace.)
The person on the telephone said they would call back to confirm that this all could happen (that there was a doctor available or a technician). In the meantime, I checked out the website.
The clinic did not accept kenko hoken.
So right away, I knew on the call back that I probably wouldn’t be able to use the clinic. Especially, as I found out the price of the chest X-ray plus examination would run me at least 16,000 yen (US $170).
Then, I realized: There is Tokai University Hospital right up the road a ways. So, let me make a brief detour here:
Back when I was working for an international company here, one with “International” in the name, I got very sick. Around Christmas Day and the day after. It was a stomach virus that was giving me a high fever, but I was too busy just trying to keep working. I went in sick, and by about 11:00 am, I couldn’t stand up anymore.
It’s really it’s own story, but the people who allegedly worked for me acted like I worked for them. So I had to argue, leaning against the wall, that I had to visit the hospital. And Tokai Hospital was close by, and said on their site that they had someone who could translate.
I barely made it there that day, and they took me right in. I was dehydrated and with a 104 fever. The doctor was very meticulous in the evaluation, and they hooked me up to an IV in no time. I had some paperwork along the way (since it was my first visit of course). But they were very caring and made me feel like I was being taken care of.
Even, I could have checked in for a bed if I still felt like I was unable to stand. And insurance would cover it. I got a list of about four different medicines, and if this cost me maybe 10,000 yen total between the emergency room visit, the IV, and the meds, I’d be surprised. I had the regular (not gap) health insurance through shakai hoken. The public plan, kokumin kenko hoken would have also taken care of this.
So I decided to give the hospital a call. And even though it sounded like I would, at first, not be able to get a same-day chest X-ray, the hospital managed to squeeze me in. Additionally, a doctor could evaluate me and sign the form—the same day. (I brought the PDF file on a disk.) Even though one part of the evaluation would not be covered by insurance, I think the X-ray was, because the whole cost was 6,720 yen ($74). You notice, the price is a fraction of what the clinic that the Embassy listed on their site had quoted.
I even got to ask about other small aches and pains, particularly, my right foot. (I am Hoofin after all, and I think I have a fallen arch.) I don’t usually go to the doctor’s unless I have to, so this was a good opportunity.
I got a follow-up appointment for the foot.
Readers of me know that I am in the public system here, which as I am telling you, is excellent. I highly doubt that I would be able to get the personal attention like that in America, with a focus on making me well, and without seeming like a business. I think maybe years ago America was like that—back when we just spent 8% of GDP on health care like Japan.
I am sure the other clinic would have given me good service. I once used the highly regarded expat clinic in Ebisu about four years ago. (That was another situation where I had a bronchitis or something and the people at the job kept expecting me to work!)
But, I think from now on, the regular Japanese system is the only way to go for me.