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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Being ill in Qatar

Flu is going round Qatar at the moment, and has already hit my household. (I am just recovering from a particularly nasty dose of it.) It's never nice being ill far from home, when you don't know how things work, so we've tried to come up with a few tips for newbies to Qatar.

Clinics: If you have health insurance by all means use a private hospital. (Al Ahli is good.) Otherwise, the government clinics are perfectly good, while the medicine from the clinics costs a fraction of the price. You will need to find out which clinic is your local, and which emergency clinic you can use on Friday and Saturday. If you get a health card (cost: QAR100) you get free care at your clinic for a year and discounted medicine. Otherwise QAR30 gets you to a doctor, and repeat visits for two weeks. All the doctors in the clinics speak English.

At the clinic you will find men and women's sections separated, although in fact it does not seem to be as strict in the past - on my most recent visit both men and women were waiting for the same doctor.

Clothing at the Clinic: Take warm clothes to the doctors: It sounds crazy when temperatures are getting up 50 degrees, but when you go to the surgery take a jumper. It may be hot outside, but the AC at the surgery is set to freezing! At the surgery you can always see expats shivering in t-shirts, but the locals are well wrapped up, as always!

Antibiotics: In the UK, doctors are now very reluctant to give out antibiotics unless you really need it. The opposite if often the case here - doctors give out antibiotics for viral infections (i.e. when they have no effect.) Sometimes they even ask you if you want antibiotics ( shouldn't they know better than us?) I assume the reason is they are used to being pressurised by patients who see antibiotics as the cure for all. Ask your doctor if you need the antibiotics, and they will often say that you don't.

Pharmacies: Pharmacies are plentiful, and carry a good stock of flu-related medicine, but you won't find all the brands from back home. (If you want lemsip, for example, you will have to bring it home.) A lot of the brands available are now manufactured in the Middle East. As in the UK, medicines like antibiotics need a doctor's prescription.

For more detail see our web article: Qatar Health

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