So today I had to finally visit the French equivalent of a GP, a médecin géneraliste. I had been putting it off for ages but as I was starting to run really low on antidepressants I finally called up on Monday and made an appointment for this afternoon. The first thing that struck me was that the secretary said the first free appointment they had was the next morning; that would NEVER happen back in the UK. So it seems you can get GP appointments much easier and quicker here.
GPs in France often work alone as well with a secretary, that is much more common than large GP surgeries like we have back in the UK with multiple GPs. The one I went to today had one room for the GP, a little waiting area with a cubicle for the secretary, and then another room for the psychologue who I guess is a counsellor. I was really anxious about going and I had to go myself as my partner was at work. The worst thing is, the front door of the apartment block (yes really, GPs here are often just based in apartment blocks!) was locked, and there was a buzzer, but it was one that you have to put a pin in to get in. Well the secretary on the phone hadn’t told me that even though she had asked me if it was my first time visiting this GP service and I had said yes. I was panicking outside as I was already slightly late but luckily someone inside left the building after a couple of minutes so I could get in. I saw on the noticeboard in the waiting area when I got there what the pin number was and that you need it to enter the building after 1pm. Thanks for telling me that on the phone, secretary…not 😐 anyways I have marked it down for future reference.
The GP I booked the appointment with turned out not to be there, because there was a male doctor instead and last time I checked “Christine” is a female name. I guess she was sick or on holiday or something. The GP I saw was very nice, offered to speak to me in English, but I said I would rather speak in French as I need to practice, and his reply was “as you wish” in English and then “practice away!” in French. He made a dossier for me with the GP surgery, which is basically like registering at a GP back home, he just took all my details and asked me about my health history and whether I had any allergies, current health conditions, if I took any medication etc.
When I told him I took depo-provera injections every 3 months as contraception, he told me that doesn’t exist in France. I told him it definitely does, because I got it done here in September by the gynae at my uni!! He had to do a search for it and found it and was like, oh yes I’ve heard of this, I didn’t even know we had it in France, I’ve never heard of anyone using it before. I was like, yes both the gynae and the pharmacy I got the prescription from reacted similarly. LARCs are very unpopular in France, pretty much all women take the combined pill as contraception. He also seemed a bit surprised that I wasn’t seeing a psychiatrist at home considering my dose of antidepressant as he considered it a high dose, which is interesting because my GP who prescribed it to me back home described it as the dose which most of her patients have needed to really benefit from it. Also, it turns out hyoscine butylbromide which I take for IBS, doesn’t exist at all in France. He had never seen it before and did a search and yep, no such thing.
After all that he wrote me a SIX MONTH prescription for my antidepressant (I’ve never been allowed more than two months in the UK!), and a sixth month prescription for omeprazole for my acid reflux (likewise in the UK the max time I’ve been prescribed it is 3 months), and then prescribed me a month of trimebutine which he said is what IBS is normally treated with in France, so that I can try it, considering that when my hyoscine tablets do eventually run out it won’t be possible to buy them here (although you can buy them OTC in the UK so I could always stock up during holidays if necessary). He also said he was going to do some more reading on the depo to learn more about it, and then said if I have any other concerns in the meantime to come back, and that I speak French very well, which was sweet.
Consultation cost me 23 euros which I paid by debit card, and I got a form for him to apply to the social security body for the reimbursement. I think they reimburse about 70% of the cost of a GP appointment here. Then I went to the pharmacy and got my medicines, but they didn’t have my antidepressant and would have to order them in, so I have to go back tomorrow morning to get them. All of that cost me around 45 euros, but again I got a form for reimbursements. Medicine reimbursements vary from 30% to 65% of the cost. Once I got home however, I realised the dispenser had actually given me only one month of omeprazole instead of 6, and instead given me like 6 months of trimebutine! Which is really not good for a dispenser to make a mistake like that about the quantity of medicine, although these are both like, pretty benign medicines. So I will have to bring that up tomorrow when I go in, which I feel bad for because she’s really lovely, have seen her most other times I’ve popped into the pharmacy for painkillers.
So that was my big healthcare adventure!