Hospitals in Poland – what are they like – my personal experience with Polish social medical care

The purpose of this post is to describe what a hospital in Poland is like. Maybe you are considering traveling to Poland for a medical procedure, medical tourism as it is called. Or maybe you live in Poland and are afraid of the Hospital because you have herd tales from communist times. Let me assure you Polish hospitals are good. The reason is the doctors and nurses and medical technicians are well trained (I was impressed and would not get that personal care in the USA) and the equipment is modern. The only thing difference is maybe some of the niceties are not there, like flowers in the rooms or something. But medical care in Poland is at a high level and I trust that if you need something done or have a medical emergency, you will be in good hands.

My trip to UJ medical center

I had to go to a Polish hospital the other week because of an accident.  Under the rules of Polish ZUS, which is the social medical insurance, I had to stay 3 days. I think all the testing and scans could have been done in one day or a few hours, but because of the rules, if I go to the Hospital you have to stay, or insurance will not pay. Mind you I pay taxes and pay for this insurance, it is just publically run and rationed. The rules are I am required to stay 3 days, I am fine now, but just needed a  lot of tests. Normally I would not need to stay in a Polish hospital but my case was for some exceptional testing. It was very unusual stuff.

How was my experience at a Polish hospital? Positive and I say without hesitation the medical care is good in Poland. However, the general experience for anyone of staying in any hospital for 3 days is no fun. This not only acts as a disincentive for people who go there for minor things but also for removes the responsibility from the hospital for discharging you too early. However, I do not know if this would be a disincentive in US hospitals as compared to as it is in Polish hospitals. In a Polish hospital everyone simply wants to go home. Maybe it is the same. I have never really been in an American hospital for such a long time. I also think the doctors in the USA send you home as soon as possible to save costs. In Poland they are very careful to check things and make sure everything is fine. It is a different culture. Polish culture is about checking and documenting, American culture is about saving costs.

Polish hospital

This image is from Jagiellonian university medical. This image understates the beauty of Polish hospitals, at least in Krakow. The buildings are grand eloquent buildings with large windows high ceilings, wide corridors and gardens. The Hospitals were build in the 19th century and most have beautiful architecture and feel. You would not find anything like that in an American hospital. I lived across from Harvard medical and the buildings were just concrete blocks.

My case was I simply needed an MRI. I first went to a private facility and paid for it myself. I was about 120 dollars out of pocket. However, the machine I used was new but had weaker magnetic fields. So I needed to get a scan at a University hospital which had a better scanner. But to do this I had to spend 3 boring days in a Polish hospital.

Betting bored and what to do about it – You have know idea how boring it was. I can only imagine how people in the slammer feel. I think the best strategy for bored is either read or simply close your eyes and take trips in your imagination. Really detailed trips that take a long time, imagining every step. But that is another story.

I got a semi private room. In my opinion the conditions were not as foofy as an American hospital, but I had wi-fi Internet and that is all that matters. I do not think it is standard I think I kind of lets just say borrowed a signal. The rooms do not have a TV thank goodness. It would drive me nuts to listen to one all day.

I am married so I have no interest in looking at the Polish nurses, but one of my friends who is not married was delighted at the notion of visiting just for that fact. Polish nurses have a reputation of being beautiful.

But I brought my Eee PC I bought when I was in Florida visiting my folks last year and was able to Skype home anytime I wanted and check my blogs and play chess online. Yes I had Wi-fi high speed Internet in my hospital room.

How was the food? It was fine. Good Polish cooking. But my wife brought in more as I like yogurt and things. But the food is better than most dinners in the USA.

Krakow Poland medical center

Krakow Poland medical center where I was

Is there a language problem at a Polish Hospital?

Do not worry, you will always find someone that speaks English.

I practiced my Polish with the other bored patients but even that lost its excitement after a few hours. Some people speak English, but basic and there is always a doctor who speaks English perfectly as do all the countless medical students walking around in the halls in groups with smiles.

On my wing I was known as ‘the English Patient’. Even though I am really American and Polish.

The meals were traditional Polish cooking, but light. My wife brought homemade chicken soup, which was a big moral boast as were her visits. I told her if I was a dog right now I would be wagging my tales.

Basically the worst thing is the boredom. I mean, besides pacing the halls and surfing the Internet what was I to do. I realized how life is really about your personal connections with people rather than hobbies. I mean I could surf the net, or play computer games all day long and it really is boring.

Poland medical Krakow

Excellent care in Poland

I felt like George in the Seinfeld episode when he was in the hospital, he said when we gets out he will do the whole Zen thing.

Polish Hospital cracow

Grand old buildings like this are a rarity in the USA.

Polish social medicine

Social insurance in Poland is a really nice thing because everything is paid for. However, the reality is I pay for it via the a special medical tax. Also the country runs a deficit as it is often hard to ration health care. This is the big problem. So when I put my libertarian hat on, I say, it is more efficient when the government does not manage it. I believe this. But when I put my social hat on, I say health care can not be rationed based on the size of the car you drive. I think Polish doctors less into money than American doctors and they are entering medicine for different reason. US doctors want to serve, the public also but it does not feel the same 100%. It is a little more ego in the USA.

Polish Hospital Kraków

Brownstone buildings from a more elegant time

Now remember, Poland has a two tier system, private and public so you have a choice in most cases. So we have private medical care really cheap and very foofy.  But it is only really the hospitals that are 100% public. And in some cases like mine it is the only way you can access the care you need.

Polish Hospital Krakow Poland

Old buildings modern equiptment

Poland had communism so of course it does not have the niceties of an American hospital but in my opinion it has very good doctors. Further, the buildings are very elegant and large. They were build at the turn of the last century. High ceilings, wide corridors and elegant design and gardens I do not see in American standard concrete hospitals.

The equipment in a Polish hospital from what I can see is the same as an American hospital. Everything is high tech. Norway grants has also donated a lot of money to Polish hospitals.

Polish hospital – This is a top medical and research hospital in Krakow, it has an English page like most Polish medical websites.

Polish Hospital University medical

This building is connected with university medical

Conclusion: should you be concerned about your trip to a Polish hospital?
If you need to go to the hospital in Poland do not worry. Remember if you do not want a procedure or test you can refuse. They will want to give you every test under the sun, think critically and talk with the doctors there if you feel for some reason something is wrong or not for you. The bottom line is the doctors are excellent, conditions are fine, even though Polish people like to complain about little things. It is not true, Polish medical care is excellent and at a high level mostly because of the doctors. Meals are on the light side but fine. Bring a lot of books or better yet an e-reader or netbook. Ask me any questions if you have any about getting a procedure done or medical care in Poland.