By Marylin Maghen, an American in Tel Aviv
IN THE PAST TEN YEARS OR SO, ICHILOV HOSPITAL in Tel Aviv has been building so much that it now looks like a city in itself. In March this year, the hospital finally launched its new wing – the Sami Ofer wing – and recently I’ve had the dubious pleasure of experiencing it as a patient. Well, all I can say is that Cedars-Sinai has nothing on us! This place is gorgeous. It looks and feels like a luxury hotel. Spacious ain’t the word – it’s huge! Nurses’ station like a spaceship, gorgeous slate floors all over, pleasant lighting, big rooms, CLEAN!!! QUIET!!! – full bathroom in every room, attentive nurses, friendly interns and residents to look after your every need, relatively good food, everything electronic…well, I can’t sing its praises enough.
I’ve been in the hospital a few times during the 22 odd years I’ve lived in Tel Aviv: you know, a broken limb here, a little cosmetic surgery there, etc. But last week was the first time I was ever in the hospital for something really serious.
It happened like this: one day I started to feel kinda “funny” in the chest. This continued, and a few days later, while walking from Mah Jong to my car, I felt shortness of breath. Uh oh. That was a little scary. Next morning I hot-footed it to my family doctor, who is a curmudgeonly ex-South African.
“Go across the street immediately,” he yelled (he yells a lot), “and get an EKG!”
I went across to the clinic of my health fund, where they gave me an immediate EKG and didn’t like the result. The nurse faxed the EKG to a cardiologist and then had a 3-way conversation with the cardiologist and my doctor, and they all decided I had to go to the hospital immediately (my point being: when they’re really worried about you, they work like an express train). Oy! I didn’t think I was that sick! The Magen David Adom (ambulance) station was also right across the street, so before I knew it I was in an ambulance and off to the ER at Ichilov.
Tests in the ER – blood, EKG, chest x-ray, everything done FAST – whew, I really thought I was on an express train. Meanwhile, all tests were coming out OK, but they decided to admit me anyway. Bummer. I asked why. “When the heart is concerned,” a resident told me, “we don’t take chances.” Fair enough.
Okay, so this is the part I dreaded. In the past, a stay in the hospital here was something like this: clanking pipes, cramped rooms, narrow beds, beds in the hallways, surly nurses, aloof doctors, no air-conditioning, toilet down the hall, worst food in the world…you get the picture. But then I discovered the whole Sami Ofer thing, and let’s just put it this way: this is socialized medicine, guys. I had the best (and fastest!) treatment in the world in the most luxurious hospital in the world. And I didn’t pay a dime.