Today, I went to see a specialist in Tokyo. While it was only a 15 minute consultation, it became a three day trip. There was a particular doctor I really wanted to see. The hospital where she works opens at six am. The doctors don't start seeing patients at six am, that happens at nine. At six am, the line up begins. A bit like camping out for a new iphone or concert tickets.
Being too early in the morning to leave from Nagoya on the day, I came to Tokyo a day early. Not wanting to check out of the hotel in the early hours of the morning, I stayed an extra night. That's how one short doctor's visit became a three day trip.
As I was already here yesterday, I did a trial run at the hospital. I made sure I knew exactly where it was, how to get there and what to do once I was there in the morning. For about ten minutes due to a small language misunderstanding on my part, I was told that I couldn't come when I had planned. I tried really hard to hold back tears until it was sorted out. At the trial run, I was told that I could wait until eight am to come, but luckily I went at seven instead, as I got ahead on the queue. By the time the doctors began at nine, the ticket machine counted over 120 patients.
With that many patients, their system really does need to be highly organised, to the point that you feel like you're on a conveyor belt. The process today was this;
- Got a patient number from the ticket machine.
- Lined up to get a new patients forms.
- Filled in the forms and handed them in.
- Waited in a big waiting room to be given my hospital card.
- Got my hospital card and was sent to the second floor.
- Waited in a another big waiting room until my number was called.
- Waited in a smaller waiting room until my number was called again.
- Saw the doctor for about 15 minutes, which by Japanese standards is very generous.
- Was sent back to wait in the big waiting room.
- Was shown to another small waiting room.
- Had another quick test.
- Went to a different big waiting room until my number came up on the board.
- When my number came up, paid at an automatic payment machine, much like one you'd find at a car park.
- Went back to the big waiting room for my number to flash on another screen.
- When my number came up again, went to a window where I was given my prescription.
Was in at seven, out by ten. Had a lovely understanding doctor who was most helpful. Not too bad.