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Paging A Doctor Abroad

June 9, 2008 By: David Eisen Travel Agent

There I was, lying in bed the morning I was due to fly to Dubai with excruciating pain in my left ear. “This is not cool,” I remember thinking, but what was I to do? I had to be at the airport in only hours, leaving me no time to consult my doctor. I would have to grin, bear it and hope the pain would subside, or, at the very least, pray that no further damage would result from a week away in a foreign land.

Now, I have not logged that much travel outside the United States, zilch in the Middle East, so it’s fair to say that I may have had some preconceived notions of the medical situation there. I was, happily, proved wrong.

Upon reaching Dubai, my ear still throbbing, I didn’t even think of asking our Jumeirah Hotels press contact if anything could be done. Stupidly, I suppose, my Western-biased mentality had me believing that good medical care didn’t exist beyond the U.S. and parts of Europe.

Merely out of coincidence did our host catch wind of my aural dilemma. We were staying at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, a family-oriented property, full of Europeans and Americans alike, so it shouldn’t have been any surprise to me that the hotel had medical staff and facilities onsite and open 24-7.

I was escorted down to the medical office, and greeted by not only a cheery medical attendant (it was 10:30 at night), but also a clean and smart-looking waiting area, which even had magazines like your typical doctor’s office.

Though the doctor wasn’t in until the next day, the attendant still had the tools and wherewithal to take a look into my ear. I didn’t need my American doctor to tell me what a German attendant could, that I, indeed, had an inflamed middle ear. She gave me some Ibuprofen for the pain and I scheduled an appointment with the doctor for the next morning. Easy as that. No referral. Nothing.

The next morning, the doctor, a very easygoing and friendly Middle Eastern woman who spoke perfect English, prescribed for me ear drops that would hopefully clear the infection. So, I thought, "Wait, where am I going to get this filled? Is there a CVS around here?" No worries, the hotel had its own pharmacy, just upstairs. Ten dollars later I had in my hands a small container of ear medication that even had a Merck label on it, which comforted my Western sensibility.

Frankly, it was easier and less time consuming to receive medical treatment in Dubai than in New York. However, I was fortunate to be staying at a resort that had reputation and the infrastructure to provide medical services.

My tale should serve as a lesson that getting sick or sustaining injury while on vacation doesn’t mean ruin; however, it’s important, especially when traveling with children or the elderly, to find out what kind of medical options will be available in the destination visited.

If your client(s) is taking a cruise, ships are required to carry a doctor on board. (He came in handy when I experienced the dreaded Norovirus earlier this year.) If, on the other hand, your client(s) is doing a land-based vacation, it is smart to call the hotel in advance to find out information on medical facilities at the property or nearby.

Also, your clients should be aware that, most of the time, they shouldn’t be on the hook for paying out of pocket for medical care. My health insurance plan covered me for medical expenses outside the United States. Just be sure that your clients know to keep original receipts regarding both the medical visit and medications purchased.

If your clients know ahead of time what to do in case there is a medical concern, the only headache they’ll have to deal with is the one in their head.

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