Just lately I have found out that if you want to become truely incompetent in The Netherlands, then you have to study for 7 years to achieve this state. Thats correct, study to become a ‘Huisart’ which is a General Doctor. The selection criteria is ruthless, you have to be at the top of everything, the pressure to pass is considerable and then at the end of it all you are completely useless.
Let me explain. As a culture the Dutch have a very ‘non-interventionist’ approach to medical care. This means that unless your penis has been severed, your head has exploded or you have visible leprosy, do not go to your local doctor. The reason is that the Dutch have convinced themselves that they have discovered the worlds first ‘cure all’ miracle drug – Panadol. That is the stock standard advice for EVERYTHING. Go away, take panadol and if you are still not feeling well in 3 weeks, come back. If this approach wasn’t so serious (read – often fatal), it would be a good joke. The thing is that the joke is on the Dutch because they don’t know or expect anything else, but as an expat who has actually enjoyed professional health care in other countries it is horrifying.
Here is the most recent real example. I was with some friends recently, where a family member had just come back from a trip to Uganda. He developed a very high fever (above 40 degrees) which stayed at that level. Went to the huisart and – yep you guessed it – Panadol. The fact that the person had just come back from Uganda was an irrelevant detail. After suffering for a week the family took him to hospital, insisted he was put on a drip and they discovered that he was so sick with Malaria that they asked him if he would like them to call a priest!! Fortunately everything got sorted out and he survived but so many people die in this country through genuine medical incompetence.
I guess it is no surprise that in the last listing posted by WHO, the Netherlands came at number 17 – (9 below Oman). The only upside to that statistic was that it was still higher than the UK!