hong kong has two forms of health care: private and public.
- private = pay a premium, use a doctor of your choice, give birth in a 4 star hotel disguised as a hospital;
- public = free, assigned a midwife at labor, share a room with 6 other chinese women, husband has limited access to you and newborn, rice congee for breakfast.
while i really would be fine with a situation somewhere in the middle, i'm not gonna lie, i'd much prefer the private scenario.
the problem: the private hospitals in hong kong are swamped with mainland chinese women scheduling c-sections so their children will be hk citizens and receive all the benefits thereof. what that means for me: no room at the inn.
the solution: see a private doctor with hopes of getting squeezed into the private hospital at the last minute, but as a backup plan, register at the public joint and concurrently receive public hospital checkups for their records, just in case.
with that said...
last weekend i went for my first public hospital checkup. if my girth didn't already make me feel like a cow, the scenario at this clinic certainly did: about 30 pregnant women are "corralled" in a holding room, each waiting for her weight to be measured, blood pressure to be taken, and urine sample to be tested -- similar to cattle lining up in a milk barn waiting to be vaccinated and tagged.
something special: you have to bring your own urine sample from home. call me crazy, but that day i felt a little uneasy roaming the city with a pill bottle full of bodily fluids marinating in my handbag.
if the nurse squawked "normal" at you after all three screenings, you were herded back into the corral to eagerly await examination. when i was called back for my exam, i was greeted by a small army: an intern doctor barely old enough to shave, two preteen intern nurses who looked like they should be hanging out with my 16-year-old sister, and a couple of elderly midwives instructing them all what to do. the "doctor" asked me a few questions, most of which i had to ask him to repeat because i sure wasn't following his english, poor lad. he told me that if i start to experience pain, i should go to the hospital immediately. thanks captain obvious. then the shy teenage nurses proceeded to poke and prod at me while the seasoned midwife barked cantonese at them and occasionally turned around and told me to "relax." sure thing lady.
back to the comfort of the corral. my appointment was essentially over, yet ironically this was the longest part of the entire visit -- waiting for the front desk to schedule my next appointment. i sat there for a good 25 minutes without any action, so in the interim i decided to covertly snap off a couple of pictures of the clinic with my brand new digital camera. bad idea. i forgot to turn off the flash, and my covert operation ended in utter failure. two seconds later an angry nurse was hovered over me, threatening, "no picture - you get ticket!" i apologized profusely, trying to make it sound like an accident (well, it was an accident that i left on the flash), deleted the picture so the commies wouldn't have evidence against me if my camera was confiscated, and let the wave of homesickness just pound me.
can't wait to go back.