Sighted recently in Nice and a reminder of one of the traditional perils of abroad – much less so now in the modern France where the thrills of the ‘accroupis’ and other eccentricties of French plumbing that so much exercised les Anglais, have gone along with our aversions to their drinking water, garlic and runny cheese. Now of course the boot is on the other pied with French innovations and achievements quoted admiringly – TGVs and their health system top of the list.
TGV or PTR – Pas Très Rapide
I can report back on both – the TGVs are fine so long as you do not expect them to run at 400kph – we took one south from Avignon and then back to Geneva from Nice and we spent most of that journey trundling along at a speed Virgin or East Coast could match and indeed easily surpass. The Geneva train – TGV Lyria – was not even a ‘real’ TGV – the train set looked very much like Virgin’s Pendelino. TGV is now it seems a brand of express trains defined by how often they stop, not by their average speed. The catering is poor and the rolling stock is looking a little frayed at the edges. They do however remain astonishingly cheap by UK standards – even first class is affordable as we last minute bookers found out as the exhausted French work force took a bridging holiday day after the mid-week celebration of VE day and filled the trains to the south in search of Spring.
Combien pour le doc?
But this value for money is left standing at the platform by the charges levied for French primary care. I had croakily asked the receptionist at the Avignon Mercure hotel – v handy for the Papal Palace btw – for a doctor’s telephone number since anti-biotics seemed to be called for. I spoke directly to Docteur Duval – a solo practitioner it would appear with no expensive receptionists/ practice managers in the way – and he said to come round now. A five minute stroll got us to his city centre premises on Avignon’s answer to Oxford Street – up the lift to the second floor and we were in his spacious if slightly shabby premises – the waiting room empty apart from a father and daughter who were seen before us. 5 minutes later, we were in his cabinet – a Victorian doctor’s practice room with display cases filled with fine specimens of the local rocks. Leaving my partner in one room, we adjourned to the examination suite. Swiftly diagnosing my problem with the traditional tools of stethoscope and torch, he filled in the form – feuille des soins-médecin – for my E111 claim for the consultation fee of 25€ (shoque, horreur) and gave me my prescription for the next door pharmacie – open he said until he told them when they could shut. He saw us personally off the premises after a brief discourse on how the euro was to blame for all France’s current problems, making sure that we avoided the small puddle of vomit at the door where he told us – helas! an infant patient had puked some little time ago. The pharmacy was indeed open and I was given my 5 days – 3 a day antibiotic course plus some hydrocortisone for the swollen throat. Now I thought would come the big bucks cost. Wrong: the bill was – check feuille des soins pharmacien/fournisseur – 12.84€. Call me spendthrift if you like but I don’t think I’ll bother claiming on my E111. Why bother making these tiny charges in the first place if the state then reimburses them anyway?
Save a Life? It gets even cheaper
Much relieved, we went on out for our evening meal in some historic square adjacent to the Pope’s old Palace where the prospect of an imminent cure did wonders for my appetite. Disaster. Over-enthusiastic gobbling while simultaneously coughing and talking (about the wonders of French healthcare perhaps – I can’t remember) meant a large piece of asparagus went down completely the wrong way and I was about to die from lack of air when my life was saved by the expert manoeuvring of an Emergency Medicine practitioner from the USA who had been sitting at the next table.
I was mute with shock and embarrassment – overcome by Brit-type apologies for making a fuss as in ‘Sorry I almost died’. My partner did however offer to stand him pudding but he said he had to be off. The car was on a meter or something. Charge for life-saving intervention – nothing.
How do you price being at the right place at the right time?
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