Thursday, November 03, 2011

Ohh thats braziliant

In preparation for our upcoming voyage to the Pantanal next week we just found out we needed yellow fever vaccinations. Yes, we probably should have known that but I guess since its not exactly the Amazon I didn't think to research. Anyways my mother in law is coming down for a few weeks and we are all going to these beautiful wetlands for the big 4 day holiday around the corner. With a yellow fever vac, you need 10 days for it to settle in before you might need its all mighty medical powers so basically today was the last day I could get it done. So here is a little story about how my mother in law and I both received our vaccine, hers in Chicago and mine in Sao Paulo.

MIL: Finding out at the last minute before her trip, frantically she calls the doctor to get an appointment. Luckily they had one available the next day. She goes in, waits over an hour to see the nurse, finally gets into the little patient room, chats with the nurse (probably hitting the two hour mark here) and is informed that not only does she need the yellow fever vaccine but she also needs malaria pills. The nurse had over 50 pages of diseases and problems that could occur and basically asked her, you sure you want to go? Um was there a choice? She finally receives the shot and a prescription for the pills. When she goes to check out she finds out insurance doesn't cover this and has to pay over 400$ for both the vaccine and the pills (which mind you according to travel websites you really don't need malaria pills but you know how over the top better safe than sorry american doctors are). She's now very upset at both the cost and the now half day spent at the doctors office.

Me: I inquired about where to get a vaccine on a newcomers facebook page, immediately was given a very helpful website found here to locate your 'vaccine posto' nearest to your neighborhood. Nervous it could take all day I took a cab over and was embarrassed at how close it was to where I live. 8R later I walked into a big building with a blue sign that read VACINAÇÃO and found a room much like the DMV. There was a man by the ticket dispenser (to receive a number and wait) and clearly his job was to dispense tickets from the already automatic machine and answer questions. He told me I didn't need a ticket (ohh how nice) and that I should go down a hallway to a room on the right. Inside sat two nurses at a table and no one else. I told them I needed a yellow fever shot and they asked if I had a passport number or RJ (resident card) which I had neither with me. They mulled it over for a min then decided that was ok and I just gave them my name and address. Literally 2 seconds later the nice little nurse sat me on a chair, whipped out a shot, administered it and gave me some instructions that I gave a smile nod to even though I had no idea what she was saying. I asked how much? They smiled and waved me off and said "free." Within 10 minutes I was saying thank you to mr. ticket dispenser and out the door I went. 

The first thought that came to mind... Ohh, thats braziliant*!! (happy dance)

*I give credit to the very funny Born Again Brazilian blogger who discovered this fabulous adjective! I even found you can buy a t-shirt with the above logo here


Jim said...

I love this story. US Americans really, really, really need to fix their healthcare system.

There is no reason for your MIL to fill the malaria prescription. Brazil's health department has been asserting for many, many years that there is no risk of malaria in the Pantanal (except perhaps the furthest north west reaches - a thousand miles from where you will be).

You're goning to have fun. Are you visiting the north or the south end?

Jana said...

I totally agree, I've had similar experiences in Argentina and cannot tell you what a relief it is to find that at least in some places they've got it right!

We are going to the south of the Pantanal and Bonito! Im sure we will have to go back someday and see the northend as well! If you have any 'dicas' let me know =)

Carol Tucker said...

I called my doctor in the United States when we were just in Italy (with your mom) and she said I needed a surgeon and to get myself to an hospital "pronto". American Express helped me find the closest "Pronto Soccorso", got a translator on the line and gave me directions to the emergency room. We drove to Perugia, no one was waiting, I received treatment and 2 types of drugs (neither of which are approved by the FDA BUT WORKED) and told to come back again if there was a problem. I didn't have to pay, and the whole ordeal was over and I was back in bed in less than 2 hours. Why can't it be this uncomplicated in the United States???

Zoe said...

Isn't it great? I got my Yellow Fever vaccination for a trip to Colombia at Hospital das Clinicas in under 10 minutes, for free, of course. Getting it there had the added benefit that they already issue you the International Certificate on the spot (I was told that most postos would just give you something valid for Brazil, but then you'd need to go to ANVISA to get the international card at GRU for travel to other countries).

Let's contrast that, shall we, to the experience Bruno and I had with Brazilian healthcare and Canadian (which, while public, seems to be often be just as backwards as the US). For our Russian visas, we both needed an HIV test. Bruno walked 10 minutes down the street, got tested for free on the spot, and 10 minutes later walked out with a shiny, stamped, signed certificate in his hands.

In BC, I had to get a doctor's prescription for the HIV test. Private doctors don't accept new patients, especially non-residents, so my alternative was an urgent care clinic, where you basically have to line up starting at 7am, and they make same-day appointments (you'll be turned away if you show up after 11am or so). Once in the office, I had to pay $50 up front to see the doctor. The doctor asked me no questions, but gave me the prescription. I took that to a lab, who refused to do the test, because the next day was a holiday, and they couldn't hold the blood sample until Monday. Oh yeah, because only ONE lab in the entire province does HIV tests, and it's a 6 hour drive away. They were going to charge me $150 ("free" public healthcare, right?). After driving across town, the local hospital lab did it, but the results take 10-15 days. In fact, the nurse there had never even heard of the rapid test (which I later learned was developed by Brazilian scientists). After finally getting the results, I had to fight with the clinic to get some sort of signed document that I could send to the consulate, and they wanted to charge me an additional $50 to get the doctor to sign it (because "they don't work for free"), even though I'd already paid $50 for 2 minutes of his time 3 weeks earlier.

So, long story short, Bruno gets his done down the street for free in 20 minutes, I get mine for $200 in 3 weeks and multiple trips to 4 different places.

Braziliant, indeed!!

Jana said...

@Zoe thats incredible. Poor Canada, I thought they had it together more than the US ... #fail!

Sarah said...

better late than never: for your friends who may need malaria drugs, Malarone (which is what I am guessing that your MIL was prescribed at that cost) is not the only prophylaxis. For my time in India, i used the antibiotic doxycycline, which is very cheap and is usually covered by insurance. Of course, it matters who your doctor is and their beliefs/research, but that usually does the trick. With that in mind, none of these drugs are full-proof - A friend of mine was on malarone and ended up getting sick about 6 weeks after she got back, long after she stopped taking the drug. so if you are travelling to an area where malaria is a real threat, you should always use mosquito repellent, sleep under a net, etc.

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