Notes from the Underground

28 February 08

Dear diary,

My allergy attacks have been increasing in the last year and my throat feels overly sensitive. I decided to go see a doctor at a private clinic, as they have more flexible working hours. However, these private clinics seem to have little connection with state health system, so doing things that they can’t do (which is a lot) seems like a lot of work — medical documentation from private doctors isn’t‘t valid in state institutions. I will just switch to the municipal clinics.

Dear diary,

I’ve been to the state clinic. It resembled a revolutionary French prison — the walls haven’t been painted in several decades, there is loose wires everywhere and I got the feeling that I will find a dead body in a restroom. I really feel sorry for doctors and nurses that have to go to work there, everyday. Anywho, they were nice and let me see a doctor without a valid health insurance card. I have chronically enlraged tonsils. They told me to come back in a couple of days to see another doctor for an opinion. The visit cost me 20 dinars — the deductible.

Dear diary,

I took some time today to get my health insurance card validated. I took it over to the revenue service and they said it will be done in two days. Bureaucracy can be such a pain in the neck sometimes!

In other news, the winter is coming and I’m making plans for the vacation. I want it to be quiet and peaceful, as I really need some rest from the work and illness.

Dear diary,

I’ve been really busy the last week. I went to the revenue service to pick up my health insurance card, but they said I didn’t pay all of my taxes (they said I still own them 200 dinars). I went back home and rechecked my papers and the taxes seem settled. When I got back to the revenue service, they were already closed.

The receptionist told me that he had his tonsils removed when he was about my age. Back in the day, he said, doctor would tell you to sit still and not bleed too much. Then he would grab the tonsils with hooks and pull them out. It hurt like hell, he said.

I went there again tomorrow, they said the transaction was cleared now (it sometimes takes a couple of weeks for my paid taxes to be recorded, it seems) and that I should come back on Monday.

Which I did. I can go to the clinic now, and that’s is good, because my throat really aches now.

Dear diary,

I saw an otorhynolaryngologist at the clinic last week, when I finally got my health insurance card validated. It cost me 20 dinars of deductible again. The doctor told me to get a swab of my throat and nose.

I went to a privately owned laboratory and got those (took them about 2 days), then took the results to the doctor in the clinic.

The doctor said she doesn’t trust those private labs, so she wrote me two referrals for the State Institute for Swabbing. It cost me 40 dinars (20 for nose and 20 for throat) and I’ll have to wait a couple of days for the results.

Dear diary,

I didn’t really do much for New Years, as my throat is aching and I can’t drink alcohol at all. I went back to see the doctor with valid lab results (which were exactly the same as the private lab’s results). The doctor sent me to the State Institute for Otorhynolaryngology.

I noticed how everything costs 20 dinars in hospitals. That’s the same price as using public restrooms in Belgrade. The personal touch that you get in hospitals makes up for the lack of the hygiene, so the price is about right.

Dear Philip,

I hope you don’t mind me calling you Philip. Anyhow, my health service card expired again, which put off my visit to the Institute for about a week. I finally went there last Thursday, and they told me the doctor will see me next Wednesday.

So, I went there this morning and the doctor was in the children section of the hospital. As I am an adult, I was put at the end of the line, so I waited for about 3 hours. The difference between the adult section and the children section is that the latter has a poster of an elephant with a tooth brush in the waiting room.

The doctor said he recommended surgery and told me to come back after a month of feeling all fit.

Dear Philip,

It was two months since I’ve last been to a hospital. I finally made it for an entire month without a cold, so I went to the hospital. After 4 hours of waiting, and 20 dinars fee, the doctor saw me.

He gave me a list of checkups I need to do before the surgery.

Dear Phil,

I got 5 out of 6 checkups from the list taken care of. However, in order to determine my blood type, I need to go to the State Institute for Determining Blood Type. My doctor wrote me a referral, so I took it to the Institute. At the Institute, they told me that I need it verified by the clinic, so I went back to my municipal clinic. They told me to take it to some place in the other part of the city where I would get it stamped.

I finally got my referral stamped and verified, but I was too late to give blood. I’ll have to go back on Monday.

Also, I saw Michael Moore’s “Sicko” today. Perhaps I should go to Cuba?

Dear Philip,

I finally got all the pre-surgery tests done, and I took them to the doctor at the State Institute for Otorhynolaryngology. He scheduled a surgery, but I got sick next week so we had to postpone it.

While I was waiting for the doctor, the nurse caught me trying to pull out my tonsils with a fishing hook. She screamed at me and told me I was doing it all wrong. So she got me a bigger hook and we tried to pull them out together.

There was a lot of blood, but we failed to pull them out without a surgeon. That’s why doctors earn big bucks in Serbia.

Dear Philip,

I once again scheduled the surgery. This time, I already knew which tests to take where and where to get referrals verified and stamped, so it only took me three days to get them all done.

Spring is already here so all the walking was not that bad.

Dear Philip,

I was in the Institute today. There are two windows at the reception: one reads “Patient sign-up” and the other one reads “Patient check-in”. I went to the sign-up window, where I went before, but they told me I need to go the check-in window if I’m here for the surgery. So I did, but I had to go to the back of the line.

Afterwards, they sent me to Room 1, where they told me I need to see anesthesiologist in Room 3. While waiting for the anesthesiologist to come back from Room 5, I helped put down a guy who was hanging by his neck in the corner.

Someone told me he got sick of everything after his business of selling popcorn in the waiting room got banned by the bureaucracy. He could either choose not to get his tonsils removed or not to have any income while waiting to see a doctor. Tragic, really.

From the Room 3 they sent me to Room 1, where some doctor told me they were booked for today, and he sent me to Room 5 to talk to my doctor and see if he can make some arrangements. My doctor told me he’ll do me a favour (I pulled some strings to get into the Institute, that’s why everything has been so efficient so far) and that I should come back on Monday. He’ll see if he can find a room for surgery.


  1. Peregrine
    Feb 29, 04:05 AM #

    “I noticed how everything costs 20 dinars in hospitals. That’s the same price as using public restrooms in Belgrade. The personal touch that you get in hospitals makes up for the lack of the hygiene, so the price is about right”
    LMAO!!! <wiping off the tears>

    I had my tonsils out in Serbia when I was 3 or 4 years old. I was given general anaesthetic so I don’t remember the fishing hooks. I do, however, remember waking up choking in the middle of the night, with no adult around, climbing out of my kiddie bed (can’t remember how I negotiated the bars), running out onto the corridor, and spitting out something gross on a tray held out by the only nurse I could find within a mile radius. It was either my tonsil or a big blood clot. Then I was told to go back to sleep. It seems the kids were already getting the privileged treatment back then.

  2. Dejan
    Feb 29, 03:23 PM #

    Peregrine, actually, nurses and doctors are much nicer now than they were some years ago. I don’t know what changed, but now one is able to communicate with them.

    I’m not blaming the shitty situation in our hospitals on the staff, I’m blaming it on lack of resources and organization.

  3. Timi
    Mar 10, 05:51 AM #

    Hi Dejan, thanks for recommending our journal for Belgrade 2.0-readers! We are planning to translate some posts, so I hope I can send you soon a link to the English version.

  4. Timi
    Mar 11, 06:49 AM #

    Here it is.
    Yet “under construction”. So we have for now just one post. But we are working on translating some more :)

  5. Dejan
    Mar 11, 07:47 AM #

    Timi, finally!

    Now we can see what’s it really about :)

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