February 8, 1990
Last night Frances suddenly developed pain in her knee and could hardly walk. We decided to call a doctor; but how? The telephone book has five full pages of different medical facilities: clinics, polyclinics, medical practices, hospitals, emergency services, nurses stations, local health centers, and neighborhood medical offices. If they all exist, the health services must be terrific and/or very bureaucratic. I call the nearest “medical practice” and ask if they make house calls. For what reason, I am asked. I say that we live on the fifth floor and my wife can hardly get from one room to another. The nurse says that we should call the emergency service. I demur, but then call, explain, say that it’s not urgent. No matter, we’ll be glad to come. When? Within two hours, depending on what other calls we get. I’m astonished, and even more so when, in about an hour, a young doctor with an emergency service shoulder patch and a substantial bag arrives and climbs the four flights of stairs to our apartment. She examines Frances carefully and thoroughly, writes out three prescriptions, and explains their purpose and how to use them. She answers our questions clearly and competently before leaving. Never a question of who we are, where we’re from, are we covered, will we pay.
I take the prescriptions to the pharmacy up the street. The pharmacist gets the three medications out of different drawers. As she hands them to me, I am not sure if I have to pay or at least show my passport and identify myself, but she has already turned away to do something else. Hardly a bureaucratic procedure!
Source: Missing Marx by Peter Marcuse