Monday, February 27, 2012
Review: Soon Chun Hyang University Hospital's International Clinic in Seoul
My regular readers know that I do not write the typical informative Korean expat blog full of useful information like how to navigate the subway system or where to find Pop-Tarts on the black market. Oh, I've included a few descriptions of points of interest (palace here, museum of chicken art there) and an occasional comment on cultural differences, but I think we can all agree that this blog is really more about me and my observations than providing useful facts and hard data for present or potential expats in Seoul.
However, for every rule, there must be an exception, and it is with this adage in mind that I provide you with my first actual review that might actually be useful to someone who is new to Seoul or planning to move here soon: Soon Chun Hyang University Hospital's International Clinic, located in Hannam-Dong.
The reason for my visit was a nasty case of laryngitis and what I assumed was a common cold, which are not things I ordinarily go to the doctor for. However, as I have recently learned, if you have laryngitis badly enough (and I apparently did, lucky me) your vocal chords can swell so much that it makes getting air between them a bit challenging. Since I place a high priority on breathing, I decided - after 8 months living in Korea - that it was time for the advice of a professional, and the wheels were put in motion for our first interface with the Korean health care system.
Since I could not actually talk, MrLogical made the appointment for me. He was told by the English-speaking staff that, since it was such short notice (we wanted an appointment for that day) they could not get us an actual appointment, but that they did take walk-ins, and that we should come to the office at 1:30pm after the lunch break and they would get us in. Used to the American healthcare system, I was not too encouraged by this. In the US - even though we have always had excellent health care plans - it is not unusual to wait for anywhere from 15-45 minutes in the doctor's office even when you have an appointment. Places that take walk-ins, like Urgent Treatment centers or clinics, usually mean at least an hour's wait - or longer. MrL and I steeled ourselves for this - I brought my Kindle and MrL even brought his laptop to get a little work done during the long painful wait that was sure to come.
We got to the hospital where the clinic was located and easily found a parking spot in the lot directly in front of the building (you have to pay for parking, but get the first hour or so free.) The International Clinic is located in the same building as the Women's and Children's services and easy to find. We made our way up to the 2nd floor and found the door marked 'International Clinic' still closed for lunch since we were about 15 minutes early and sat ourselves down to wait in the hall outside the clinic. At exactly 1:30, the door opened, and we were ushered in. The three or four women working at the front desk all spoke good English and told us apologetically that it would be just a few minutes' wait (even though we were walk-ins!). We waited less than 5 minutes before we were ushered in to the doctor's office. She examined me, asked about my symptoms, and told me that she would be sending me for sinus and lung xrays to check for infection and nebulizer treatments to help with my breathing. One of the women from the front desk - whose job was both to guide us around the hospital and act as our interpreter - appeared and led us down the hall to a desk where she handed over the slip that the doctor had written for me, explained what I needed in Korean. A clerk behind the desk printed out a few forms, which she gave to me. Our guide led us down the hall to radiology, handed my form to someone at another desk, and told me to wait until my name was called. Once again, the Kindle and the laptop were unnecessary. I was xrayed and out of there in minutes.
Next stop was the nebulizer treatment, which was given to me across the hall from X-ray in what was called the 'injection room.' As it turned out, the injection room was connected to a much larger room full of patients in varying states of illness lying on gurneys, either receiving treatments, being visited by friends or family, or simply lying huddled under blankets and waiting (I assumed, to be admitted.) It reminded me of an American ER, with gurneys lined up with curtains hanging between them, but much more crowded. There was one empty gurney, and that was where I was given my neubulizer treatments- which had already been ordered via my doctor's computer and were waiting for me when I got there. The nurse who administered the treatment spoke enough clear and effective English to explain what the treatments were for and what I needed to do.
When the nebulizer treatments were finished, it was back to the clinic, where we sat for a few minutes before being ushered in to the doctor's office. By this time, my xrays had already been sent to her computer, and she had already determined that I had no lung infection but that I did have a sinus infection, and would need antibiotics, as well as an steroid injection to help reduce some of the swelling and inflammation in my larynx. While she was explaining this to me, she was entering information on her computer, and writing out prescriptions. She also used an online program to make me an appointment to come back and see her the following Wednesday for a follow-up (in the US, this would not have been done by the doctor, but would have been done by the receptionist - after more waiting in line.) We were told that we could have my prescriptions filled at any pharmacy, and then we were met by our English-speaking guide, who once again got my forms for me and led me back to the injection room, where the nurse had already received the orders for the steroid injection on her computer and had it waiting for me.
We were walking out the door to the parking lot in just under 1 1/2 hours, including the 15 minutes we'd waited because we'd arrived too early. Cost for the whole thing, including consultations, xrays, nebulizer treatments and injections? KRW84,000 (about $80 US with our expat insurance: I've been told that, if you have Korean National Health Insurance, costs are cheaper.)
The longest wait we experienced (maybe 10 minutes) was at the pharmacy (we went to the Severance Pharmacy directly across the street from the hospital; there are a number of pharmacies right there). All of our information was already included on the printout with our prescription from the doctor, so there was no need to present our health insurance card or fill out any forms. The pharmacist (apparently used to dealing with foreigners) spoke English and was able to give me clear directions. An important note; many medications that are over-the-counter in the US, such as certain decongestants or extra-strength ibuprofen, are not available without a prescription in Korea, so I was given prescriptions not only for antibiotics, but also for an anti-inflammatory, decongestants, and antihistamines Here's how I got them:
That's right: in individual dose-packs to be taken 3 times a day. Beautifully efficient! In the US, this would have been 4 different pill bottles with 4 different sets of directions, to be opened and closed 3 times a day.
Bottom Line: Our first experience at the Soon Chun Hyang University Hospital's International Clinic was a very positive one. The staff in the clinic were very professional, spoke good English and were helpful and efficient. Wait times were minimal, and the cost was very reasonable in comparison to typical US health care prices.
Location: Hannam-dong; The Soon Chun Hyang University Hospital International Clinic is located on the 2nd floor of the building which also houses the Women's and Children's services and is well-marked.
More information, including directions and telephone numbers, is available here: Soon Chun Hyan University Hospital International Clinic