12 Aug 2016

28. Aging Rockers Never Die

When I’ve invited friends to come and stay with us on the island, several have expressed fears of a third world medical service. Understandable but unfounded. The Spanish public health service is one of the best in Europe – so much so that the government recently had to take steps to curb “medical tourism”. The Canary public health service is one of the best in Spain and, obviously, includes the service we on the island receive, both residents and visitors. Despite bad press engendered by highly visible protests by some of the sector’s professionals, many patients I have talked to have experienced an improvement in attention and general efficiency over the last few years.

There is, however, a protocol you have to follow, whether you like it or not. You have to go to your local centre of primary attention. You will be seen by a general doctor who, in most cases, will prescribe treatment. If they deem it necessary they will refer you to a specialist. On occasions, the patient will be gently bundled off in an ambulance to our hospital in Valverde. Yes, the population of the whole island is less than that of a small town anywhere else and yet we have a beautiful little hospital with resident and visiting specialists in all areas, state-of-the-art equipment, operating theatres, laboratory etc … If, at the hospital, they think it advisable you’ll be whisked off in a helicopter to the main general hospital in Tenerife. It sounds interminable, doesn’t it? But this year, two young women I know suffered strokes in the village. Within a couple of hours they were being operated on by neurosurgeons in Tenerife. One has almost completely recovered and is leading a normal life, the other has had several more operations and is in rehabilitation.

I, for my sins, suffer from a rather nasty condition. My sister, who works in a hospital in England and has something similar to my illness, was surprised by the barrage of tests I had had and the short waiting time for each. I have had two successful operations on my eyes and I continue to see the specialist in neuropathy in Tenerife. The last time, he ordered an electromyogram and NCS as soon as possible. I went to the desk to book the session. The man taking note was probably misled by my appearance after an early flight – unruly hair, haggard face, bristling moustache and braces holding up my jeans, accompanied by a fashionable young woman – for he finished his paperwork and looked at me with a smile saying “Aging rockers …”  I completed his sentence with “… never die!”
“Not if we can help it!” he added. We laughed and I got my test immediately.

Our hospital, Nuestra Señora de los Reyes, built on the only bit of flat land in Valverde.

The medicalized helicopter from Tenerife touching down in order to evacuate a patient waiting in the ambulance.

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