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Getting Sick And Getting Better

Author: Paul Granberg, Issue: October 2004, Topic: Medical

It is almost guaranteed that every person will get sick at some time in the year. The traditional Japanese approach to illness is to deny that you're sick, struggle on regardless, thereby prolonging the illness due to lack of rest, and in the process infect all your colleagues with whatever you've got. Face it. You WILL get sick. So the best thing to get prepared for when the inevitable happens.

Sick Leave and Your Office

Most companies/organizations have had a number of foreign employees before you, so they will usually have systems in place to deal with your requests for Sick Leave (Ryokyu). You need to ask, and learn about what that system is before you get sick. Through unfamiliarity with the Western concept of Sick Leave, companies may ask you to use your Holiday Leave (Nenkyu) to cover your absence. It is important to work WITH your Supervisor to sort out these misunderstandings. If you approach the situation calmly, you'll most probably find that you'll have it all sorted out within a few minutes. Please contact your supervisor and discuss with him/her your requirements for using sick leave. 5 minutes now may save you a lot of trouble later.

Hospitals and Doctors

If you get sick, or suffer an injury, you will need to see a doctor or a specialist. Once again, a little preparation now will save you a lot of waiting and trouble later.

Registering at Your Local Hospital

When you are feeling terrible, running a fever, sneezing and or in pain, the last thing you want to be doing is filling out Japanese forms by yourself. Follow these simple steps to save you time later.

You should have been given a publication entitle "Guidebook for Foreign Residents". If not, you can obtain these from the City Hall or the Tsukuba Information Center. Have a look through this book and find a local hospital near you that has an English speaking doctor. Alternatively, you could contact the Foreigner Consultation Centre at the Mito International Association (Ph# 029-244-3811) and they will be able to provide you with similar information. Ask your supervisor to help you register with the hospital. Don't forget to take your National Insurance Card with you. Make sure that you or your supervisor makes a note of your need for an English speaking doctor on the registration forms.

Once you have registered, you will be presented with a plastic membership card. When you get sick, present this card so that they can forward your medical history onto the English speaking doctor (if one is available). While you are there, don't forget to take a note of the hospital's operating hours. Usually they are open from 8am - 11am, and then from 1pm - 4:30 pm.

Hospitals don't take reservations in Japan.

Procedure for Going to the Hospital

  • Register at the reception desk. Usually this involves nothing more than depositing your Hospital Card in a slot on the desk. Hopefully with the information in your file, you will be directed to an English speaking doctor later.
  • Take a seat with all the other people and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait.
  • A nurse will eventually call your name. Initially she will give you a thermometer to put in your armpit. Leave it there until it beeps, and then take it with you when your name is called again.
  • The second time your name is called, follow the nurse's directions. Usually this will to be to a second waiting area just outside the examination room.
  • See the doctor. Make sure that you understand any directions that he/she has given you and about the medication that you've been prescribed.
  • (I.V.'s are very common in Japan. Don't be surprised if you are directed to another room to have an IV solution put into your arm.)
  • The doctor will usually give you two pieces of paper. Once will be a prescription, the second will be a note for the Reception desk. Take the note to the Reception desk, and they will prepare your bill taking into account your Insurance Coverage. You'll need to wait some more for the bill. Just listen for your name.

<< Managing Your Electricity | Master Index | The Doctor-Patient Relationship >>

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