Nov 27 2008

Follow the Yellow Line

by at 2:02 pm

I get a flu shot every year, since I have asthma.  At Harvard it was easy—pop into health services almost whenever, wait two minutes, done.  Here, it was less simple.  I could find nothing about any vaccine clinics in Lausanne, but the health web site of the University of Geneva mentioned that one could get vaccines for 25chf without an appointment at the University Hospitals of Geneva (don’t ask me to explain why it’s plural “hospitals”).  However, searching the internet for another source to corroborate this information turned up nothing, and I was afraid this offer didn’t actually exist, even though it’s well known that unlike in the US, not all useful information is put on the internet here.  I emailed the UniGe health office and the primary care medicine office at the hospital, and a secretary at the hospital confirmed that I could show up for a vaccine and briefly explained how I might navigate through the hospital: ask the receptionists.  After weeks of trying to find time to go across Geneva for this vaccine, I finally made it yesterday.

I walked into the main entrance of the hospital.  The hospital is big and ugly (Mather-style architecture, as usual), although clean, of course.  Huge information desk, staffed by many people, at the front.  This was unusual—people there to answer my questions!  Hello, I would like to get a “vaccin contre la grippe,” please.  “La grippe? Oh, walk down this hallway to your left and talk to the next receptionist there.”  I walk down the hall, find another receptionist.  “S’il vous plait, je voudrais avoir un vaccin contre la grippe.”  Name?  Birthdate?  Insurance card?  Phone number?  I struggle to say my birthdate, spell my name, and provide my phone number in French without sounding like a huge idiot.   This is really hard to do.  I am handed a form to fill out before the vaccine, so they can make sure I’m not allergic to it or am taking medications that might interact poorly, etc.  I also get a sheet of many stickers, all of which have the information I just provided the secretary.  The person next to me is going through this same process, except more quickly.  “Oh, good,” I think to myself.  “Someone else who is Swiss, who therefore knows what’s going on, and who I can follow.”  The receptionist tells me that I should take the elevator up to the 2nd floor, and then follow the yellow line.  Simple enough, I think.  Wow, what an unusual experience for Switzerland!  Clear directions, no utter confusion, etc.  Maybe I won’t have to act like a sheep today!

Up we go, the person next to me in line and me.  Elevator door opens—there is the yellow line painted on the floor.  I walk down the yellow line.  I see a little number-ticket machine.  These are very popular in Switzerland.  Usually lines don’t exist; everyone just takes a number and then hangs out until called.  Even if there is no line, one must take a number.  At the train station, at the post office, etc.  Anyway, I hesitate…am I supposed to take a number?  But this looks like a ticket machine for the blood donation center.   The other woman, who was behind me on the yellow line, pushes past and continues on down the yellow line.  I figure that she must be right, so I follow.  Then, the yellow line ends.  In the middle of the hallway.  Where to now???  She continues on.  I follow for about five steps, realize I am out of the primary care unit, and decide I should go back and take a number.  As I am waiting with my number, the other woman has apparently decided that this is the place to be, and she takes a number, too.  If this works out, score one for Jackie over a Swiss person!

The nurse calls my number, takes both my sheets (including all the stickers!  what were they for?), and has me sit down in a chair the likes of which one usually finds only in a dentist’s office. I am meanwhile hoping I won’t accidentally have my blood drawn or something since I am still unsure I was supposed to take a number there.  She takes out a syringe, asks if I had any problems with the vaccine last year.  Then I get stuck with the needle.  Ok, good, I think that was a flu vaccine!  She sticks on a not-bandaid (if bandaids were all white, and the brown parts were made out of sticky-on-one-side gauze, it would have been a bandaid).  I gather up my stuff, put on my coat, etc.

The last, and always difficult, question:  where and how to pay?  Switzerland has two favorite methods of payment: up-front cash or bills sent to your home to be paid at some point via internet or post office money order.  Seth or I should probably write a whole post about this topic.  I couldn’t figure out where to pay, so I am assuming that at some point in the future, who knows when, I will get a letter from the hospital with a bill in it.  Something to look forward to.

When I left, the Swiss woman was still waiting there with her number for her vaccine.  Score 1 Jackie, score somehugenumber Switzerland.

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One Response to “Follow the Yellow Line”

  1. […] as I can.  Last year, I couldn’t figure out where to get a seasonal flu vaccine, so I went all the way to the University of Geneva Hospital for a 25 chf shot.  This year, having become familiar with CHUV (hospital) / PMU (patient medical clinics) of the […]

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