Europe, Spain

First Doctor’s Visit

I have very little I can report back on in regards to healthcare in Spain. The auxiliar program provides us with an insurance plan, but it’s through a private company not through their public health system. The plan is for extranjeros (foreigners/travelers). It’s intended to cover emergencies and some very back preventative care. Medications and pre-existing conditions aren’t covered. While in quarantine, I needed to find a doctor to write me a note that I was advised to stay home, and it was so overwhelming trying to figure out the primary care process here.

One thing that I was due for and was covered for was an annual OB/GYN appointment. I’ve been in Spain almost five months, and this is the first time I’ve had to navigate any healthcare or worked with my insurance company. I’ve had COVID testing at hospitals, but they have contacted me and arranged payment for it. So, I started by asking for recommendations on my aux group for providers in the area who accept Adeslas (our insurance). I had tried calling them, but it was quite difficult to understand, and I was really overwhelmed. Once I found some people to call, I tried the first one. It was a total failure. The receptionist was so frustrated at the language barrier, and I think she was telling me I had to go to the Adeslas primary care clinic for approval first, which didn’t sound right. We spent about 20 minutes trying to understand each other, and I gave up.

A couple weeks later, I tried again, and I found a clinic in Pontevedra that said they’d accept my insurance, and they were fairly patient with our communication barriers. I set-up an appointment for the next week and didn’t really know what to expect. I looked up key words ahead of time related to testing, birth control, general medical terminology, and so forth. I wrote it down to help us both. Most of the time, understanding the general gist of a conversation is enough, but with healthcare, details are important.

I arrived and was met with a very, errr, old-style medical office. The physician was an old man who informed me promptly that he old did consultations (annual exams, etc) and doesn’t do anything with my type of birth control (the Nexplanon implant) because “he is old and does not want to learn these new surgeries.” We had a chuckle, and he did my exam and took all the swabs and whatnot.

The weird part came next, which was that I had to go and hand-deliver my test tubes to the hospital lab across town for testing. It certainly felt quite strange walking through the city with a package with different gynecological samples. Once I arrived at the hospital, I was immediately overwhelmed. It was hustling and bustling, and I couldn’t find where I needed to go.

I knew the word for “laboratory” so eventually I got pointed to the right place. When I got there, the person at the desk was super busy and answering phones, doing check-out, guiding people, and so forth. She spoke to me very quickly, and I didn’t understand a word she said. I asked her to slow down, and she wrote some things for me. I had to call Adeslas on the spot to get prior authorization to run the testing. In the US, this is usually handled by the labs, doctors, pharmacists, etc. But, I had to get the PA number and put it on my testing paperwork. I called Adeslas and was on hold for over 45 minutes, just standing in the lab waiting room.

The desk person tried to get in contact with Adeslas for me and was able to before I could (I was waiting for an English speaker which they have far less of than Spanish speakers). Once that was taken care of, I dropped off my lab samples, signed paperwork, and was on my way back home.

It wasn’t an easy process, but I’m glad I was able to navigate it fairly uneventfully. Here’s to hoping I can keep my healthcare needs limited here!

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