Science - June 1, 2006

Complaints about Dutch health care

For many international students the Dutch healthcare system appears not to be what they expected. Doctors are difficult to contact, appropriate medicine is not easy to get, and for some only a visit home could bring recovery.

‘It is indeed a problem,’ states ISP chairman Byjesh Kattarkandi. ‘Many international students consider it a problem that there is no twenty-four hour healthcare service in Wageningen. In addition, quite a few international students, especially from Africa and Asia, expect more treatment from the Dutch GPs.’

An international student at Wageningen University, who prefers to remain anonymous, gives an example for which only a return home could bring healing. ‘Last February I became so ill that I was not able to stand on my feet anymore, friends helped me to go to a doctor. The GP told me to wait three days and see how I got on. I was shivering, throwing up and I couldn’t even eat fruit or drink water. When I returned to the doctor he sent me to the hospital in Ede for tests, but it took more another week to get the results. In the meantime my health deteriorated further and I was afraid I would die in my sleep. After days of suffering and losing kilos, I decided to buy a ticket back to my country where my doctor immediately determined a serious bacterial infection and put me under an two-week intensive treatment, after which I had recovered.’

The Wageningen Student Organisation, which represents student interests, recognises the problem. ‘Although we do not know anything about students going home for medical treatment, we are aware that many international students feel they are not taken seriously by Dutch doctors,’ says WSO board member Esther Veen. ‘We think this may arise in situations where international students have to make an appointment to visit a Dutch doctor. In addition, they sometimes do not understand why Dutch doctors are so reluctant to prescribe medicines.’

Student doctor André Godkewitsch agrees about the cultural differences in medical treatment, but does not think that healthcare should be a problem for international students in Wageningen. ‘I know that international students sometimes feel they have not been adequately helped. But I have no knowledge of actual cases in which students where not properly treated. If the situation does arise, I would always be willing to intermediate between students and their GPs. International students should know that if you make an appointment in the morning you will be helped the same afternoon. Information on all healthcare matters is available in ‘Your Guide in Wageningen’. In terms of medical treatment, the Dutch system is just not ‘your wish is my command’. Dutch doctors use careful protocols when it comes to prescribing. In principle, antibiotics should only be used when it is certain that the patient has a bacterial infection. And it’s important to mention that careless use of antibiotics leads to disease resistance, rendering medicines ineffective. This is becoming a serious worldwide problem.

Esther Veen adds, ‘On the subject of misunderstandings about prescribing, the WSO wrote a letter last week to all GPs in Wageningen, mentioning the problem as a cultural issue that might need some more attention.’ / MV

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