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Diana Jekina,


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A Word In Advance

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My experiences of Dutch healthcare - both preventative and curative, from pregnancy through
birth for myself, and for care of four children up to age eight - have almost all ranged from very good to excellent. I know of some expats who might not agree with me, and I would encourage
those who have heard such stories or are worried for other reasons to read the following.

The Dutch are pragmatic and direct about many things, and health is no different. I quote the Outpost organisation's introductory leaflet to life here:

'Dutch healthcare is of a high standard and generally non-interventionist.'

The doctors - both in preventative and curative care - have impeccable qualifications and resources at their disposition. Just as pregnancy is seen as a natural phenomenon - a means to an end - rather than an ailment, however, so they view many minor complaints as just that: minor and passing. This apparently terrifying rash/fever your child has generated is likely to pass in a day or two with no lasting harm, for example, and you should not worry about that small developmental delay, because the child will probably catch up in a few months.

Visiting the clinic (for a routine checkup) or your family doctor (with a health problem) expecting a name and a prescription for your ailment, or an immediate referral to a specialist for treatment, is thus generally doomed to failure. To hold to this kind of expectation will make you angry and frustrated in the long run. I know from family experience that GPs (family doctors) in some other European countries tend to give out antibiotics much more readily than here, for example, and the Dutch don't go for palliative pills and powders you might receive elsewhere as a matter of course. The Dutch response is more likely to be 'give him plenty of water, and come back in three days if he's no better'.

This is how it is here: a brusque-sounding bedside manner does not mean that the doctor in question is heartless or uncaring (far from it!). Adjust your expectations, and realise that the Dutch culture and language do not always lend themselves to soothing and tactful courtesies when the doctor is telling you to wait and see, and bring your child back in three days if there's no improvement. Remember: directness and honesty are highly valued, and more common virtues than politeness and tact.

Cultivate your GP (huisarts ) and the staff at your health centre / clinic. Talk to them every time you visit, and make sure they understand your child's health and development, so that they will see as clearly as you when the fever and rash isn't normal but genuinely IS worrying, or when it's not 'just a phase' but his talking really isn't coming on as it should. Then they will be fully on your side and better prepared to take rapid action when required (see Specialists).

Note also that with older practitioners - clinic or GP - the language barrier can be appreciable (i.e. their English is OK but stilted and takes effort on their part), so with serious issues it can be a great help to take along a Dutch speaker with you. You will be working in a mostly Dutch language environment around clinics and GPs; the hospitals in general have more people who are multilingual.
Now read on: about preventative medicine here and curative medicine here.

Preventative side Family doctor part



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