A Visit to the Juliana Children’s Hospital

Petit-Homme has been coughing a lot recently. Last week, it deteriorated to disruptions in sleeping and gasping for breath. Apparently it has been a particularly bad winter (people seem to say that every winter) because the paediatrician’s clinic was booked solid for a month.

I brought Petit-Homme to the GP instead, which is typically what parents in the Netherlands do as a first step. Got an appointment easily after explaining the symptoms – the paediatrician gave me the tip that I should clearly describe breathing difficulties and lethargy, as it would be inconceivable not to get seen under these circumstances.

It was a positive experience. The GP, who was Dutch, surprised me with an extremely pleasant and caring demeanour. I have gotten so used to Dutch brusqueness that it was lovely to have empathy. Having said that, when I compare treatment of kids versus adults, I’ve noted that staff often treat kids with an abundance of care, while adults are expected to tough it out and stop asking for stronger painkillers. But in all fairness, 95% of my medical encounters here have been nothing short of exemplary.

The GP gave Petit-Homme a dose of ventolin to open up his lungs and sent us to the kid’s hospital for further diagnosis. In doing so, she had the clinic order us a cab and escort us to it. That was pretty nice.

To my own shame, I didn’t know before that a specialist children’s hospital existed in The Hague. We arrived at 4:20 at the A&E ward. All was suspiciously quiet. My past experiences at A&E have never been positive – waiting 5 to 8 hours to be seen is typical I suppose. I expected the wards to be flooded with wounded children, or kids in severe distress, but shockingly there was only one other child in the reception room – and we were seen within 3 minutes of registration.

All in all, we spent 2.5 hours hanging out in a private chamber tended to by a variety of doctors and nurses, checking symptoms, administering oxygen and ventolin (much resistance and wailing from Petit-Homme who resented being stuck to a mask), and even having milk delivered to us. Turns out, he had a chest infection.

Off we went to a night pharmacy on Laan van Meerdervoort in The Hague – another remarkable discovery!

It’s been five days and Petit-Homme is definitely on the mend. What surprised me from this whole experience was the speed of care we received. It would seem that on some levels at least, the system of compulsory health insurance works pretty well here.


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