Inside Japan’s health care system

Last week, I unfortunately had the opportunity to experience Japanese health care.

Last week, I unfortunately had the opportunity to experience Japanese health care. I was in a skiing accident over the weekend and I ended up hitting my head pretty hard.

Stupidly, I wasn’t wearing a helmet and after the accident I had a horrible headache and was experiencing some concussion like symptoms.

Once I got home after the accident, I was able to contact my translator and we decided that it would be best for me to go to the hospital the next day to get everything checked-out and make sure nothing was seriously wrong.

Early Monday morning, my translator and another employee of the Toyokoro Board of Education picked me up at my house and drove me to the hospital in Obihiro (about a 45 minute drive).

We arrived at the emergency room at the hospital and they directed us over to the clinic next door. This clinic is a subsection of the main hospital in Obihiro.

In Japan, from what I understand from talking to people in Toyokoro, is that doctor’s offices and small clinics do not exist. In order to see a doctor in Japan, you must go to a hospital, which will then have smaller departments and subsections, which includes a walk-in clinic style of health care.

When I arrived at the clinic in Obihiro, within 30 minutes I had checked in with reception, filled out paper work, had an initial check by a nurse, spoke with a doctor about the accident, had a CT scan, and then spoke with the doctor again to look at my scans and receive a treatment/recovery plan.

All of this happened in just 30 minutes! This was not a private clinic, and the clinic had about 40 other patients waiting to be treated.

I was astounded at how fast and efficient the whole process was. When I was finished, I ended up having to pay a small fee of ¥5,200 yen, which is equivalent to approximately $60 CAD. Through my job, I pay about ¥10,000 yen per month, or $110 CAD for health insurance.

I’m not exactly sure what my health insurance covers but I expect that if I didn’t have it, my fee at the clinic would have been much higher.

Now, I’m not going to claim that the Japanese health care system is faster or more efficient than the Canadian system.

I can however tell you about the instances that I required health care services in Canada for a head injury. When I lived in Montreal, I had two different instances that I was taken to the hospital for a concussion due to a field hockey incident.

The first time I was taken to the emergency room, where I waited four hours to see a doctor for three minutes, who did a small check-up, no CT, and just told me to rest for three to four days.

The second time, I made an appointment with the McGill Athletics Department to see a doctor, who conducted a concussion test, no CT, and then ordered rest for two weeks.

So, now I’ve had three relatively different health care experiences for possible concussions.

Japan was probably the most thorough and efficient, but was a CT really necessary?

While my health care experience went well, I’m not going to say my health care experiences in Montreal were inadequate.

Regardless, health care is going to vary depending on which country or which province you are in.

The moral of the story is always wear a helmet when you are skiing/snowboarding; that way you won’t have to go to the hospital.

Allyssa Hooper is in Summerland’s sister city of Toyokoro, Japan as the assistant English teacher.