Cafés and Clinics: Poznan, Poland

“ Life’s a dance, we all have to do. What does the music require?” ~ Feist, La meme histoire
 – Old Market Square, Poznan –
    Here Comes the Sun is playing in the café I am sitting in right now, and it is so perfect, because the sun has been making an appearance a little bit more every day, and everybody is so much happier – you can just tell. People walking and biking around the streets squinting in the bright, warm sunshine and smiling (unusual to see for the Danes – they’re usually so reserved and expressionless, especially when commuting).
   So. I have a million things to catch up on. And I’m going to try and recap some of the short study tour that happened a couple weeks ago. I also have to finish the Brussels trip. And then catch up on some things in Denmark – Botanical Gardens, figure skating, and such. Those blog posts will be coming after these ones about long study tour to Poznan and Berlin; it’s out of chronological order, I know, but the weeks leading up to long study tour were really hectic. Most of the weeks are getting to be more hectic as classes pick up and various travel weekends are thrown in, and then time to enjoy running in the sunshine – it’s busy in the very best way possible.
 – On the train from Poznan to Berlin, the Metal Croissant (this wasn’t the name, but we all just called it this) in the Pozan mall, the best cappucino in the world, newspaper wallpaper in an Italian Restuarant in Poznan –
   Poznan, Poland surprised me. The city was a character of contradiction. There were so many CUTE cafes everywhere, and I fell in love with every single one. Whenever we went into one of the sweet little cafes, I felt like I had walked into a Pinterest Board titled something like, “Cozy Places” or “My Dream Living Room.” They were all just so stinkin’ cute. Also, really good cheap food and the best best drinks. Lavender Lattes and hot Ginger/Orange Tea and the most wonderful cappuccino in the world at this pretty Italian Restaurant hidden behind a gate.  I just wanted to take all those places back to Denmark with me. The Old Market Square was whimsical, with cobblestone streets, fountains, and old wooden market stalls – vendors selling puppets and postcards from the stalls, little trinkets and maps and canvas tote bags. Little houses, tall and thin, and painted all different colours and embellished with intricate designs.
    Statues on street corners and wooden signs for restaurants. The Old Market Square and the little neighborhoods surrounding it were friendly and quaint. But a few blocks from the Square and up to where our hotel was, the streets were more run-down, dirty, and there was construction just everywhere. Our hotel was really nice – one of the fanciest I’ve stayed in, I think. And the breakfast was to die for. Smoked salmon and crepes and eggs and pastries and every kind of fruit you could think of. It was such a bummer that we couldn’t just sit and eat there all morning – we had to get up at 6am to go to the hospitals for our class visits, and I have no idea how to be hungry at that time in the morning. None of my brain cells are functioning to tell my stomach that it wants food.
 – View from our Hotel window, walking around Old Market Square –
– Our breakfast! Pictures from cafes around Poznan –
 – Farmer’s Market –
   The hospitals. Here is where the contradiction comes in. According to Sean in my class who knows everything (I don’t know how. He just knows so much about everything – he answers pretty much every question in class, and tells us random historical facts about places that we go to, and somehow manages to not be annoying about it so that we only resent him a tiny little bit and like him a whole lot otherwise), Poznan is one of the wealthier cities in Poland. I didn’t get that impression at all until we went to the mall there, and wow – fanciest mall I have ever seen in Europe. It was huge, filled with luxury shopping stores and fancy boutiques. And there were a lot of people shopping, so it must be somewhat true. But the hospitals were a different world. They were so cramped and quite dirty, understaffed and confusing.
    We visited an OB-GYN unit in one hospital, and the Pediatric department in another, and in both, there was very little space for the patients and their families.  The OB-GYN unit seemed fairly unsanitary – nurses and doctors didn’t wash their hands as they traveled from room to room. There was hardly any technology – only two computers that I saw, one Ultra-Sound machine, and no nurse call buttons or anything of that nature in any of the patient rooms. Each room held up to six patients, with no dividers between the beds, and there was hardly space to walk. Everybody just looked very tired. The mothers, the nurses, the electro-cardio-gram machine. Nurses walked around in flip-flops and dresses and tights (which seemed super uncomfortable for a full day of work – idk). We also just had a hard time communicating with the staff, and got super lost trying to find the unit – wandering up and down stairs and various halls in search of where to go. On retrospect, the fact that a large group of us could freely meander around the halls of the hospital with nobody asking us what we were doing or who we were looking for, was a bit worrisome. I mean, just anybody could get into the hospital and pretty much go in any of the rooms. We didn’t get to see a live birth unlike the group that went after us, but we saw some of the Ultra-Sound Scans and walked around with the doctors on rounds – a very confusing time of listening to rapid Polish and being carted around from room to room and crammed into the tiny little space by the doorway.
 – Exploring an old castle by our hotel, a street in the Old Market Square –
 – Early morning tram ride on our way to the hospital, famous Poznan pastries! Lots of pretty cafes, and the sweetest little cup of tea –
 – Some whimsical houses in the Square, a view from the castle, and the cheese platter from our dinner one night! –
    This was the same case for the pediatric hospital. There was so little space. Just one hallway with a few rooms for many, many patients and families. “The hospital,” the doctor who led us around explained, “is being built up. There is a modern wing being added, but no one is here to staff it or organize the space.”  We were able to talk quite a bit with the young doctor Jan who had been working at the Pediatric hospital for several years now. And he gave us a blunt overview of the Poznan healthcare system. “It’s not a good system. It needs to change. There are so many things that are inefficient and falling apart in this system, but that’s just how it is.” He remarked that he spends over 90% of his time doing paperwork – manually entering data into an outdated system for each patient. Work that should be done by a medical secretary, but because they only have one (who is on sick leave most of the time), the doctors are forced to spend time doing it. “I work sometimes 12 hours a day,” he said, as we passed through the crowded hallway, peeking into rooms with children lying side by side in beds, and some parents sleeping on the floor beside the beds. “There are so many patients to see, and we don’t have enough room. It gets busiest around 5pm here. You know Lord of the Rings? Well, 5 pm is…wow… it’s like the Gates of Mordor.”
    It seemed to me that the system could benefit most from a medical assistant program. That, and a better electronic data system to keep track of patient charts. Not to mention more space. But the nurses are overworked, as are the doctors, and having a medical assistants to treat more minor injuries and the initial logistics of setting up an appointment or answering the phone and various emails would cut down on a lot of the time doctors spend not seeing patients. There also seemed to be a disconnect between the senior doctors and the younger doctors like Jan. The senior doctor we visited had a huge office and his own secretary – it was confusing. I couldn’t figure out if he thought that the hospital had the same problems that Jan pointed out. Nevertheless, Jan seemed to genuinely enjoy his work – hard and hectic though it was. My friend Zoe asked him if it was draining and depressing to see sick children everyday, and he replied, “No. Maybe you could say that I have no empathy. I do things by reason, by logic. Maybe this is bad to say that I have no empathy? But I also can help people better that way. I cannot let myself get sad and depressed when I see sick children. Then I might not be able to perform as a doctor. I enjoy helping children. They make my life brighter. They are truthful, honest.”
 – View from the Poznan mall, flowers at the farmer’s market, cafe where we had our pierogi making! –
  – City Hall –
 – View of the Pediatric Hospital –
   I think we saw opposite ends of the spectrum in Poznan. We didn’t really get to see a lot of what was in the middle – what the people who lived in the Old Market Square thought of the healthcare system, where people go for just regular check-ups or to see a specialist. We spent time in pretty little cafes and then again in cramped and dirtier hospitals. We rode a fairly modern-looking tram through the old, old crumbling streets. We passed by dirty apartments with construction outside and stayed in a hotel with the nicest breakfast I’ve ever seen. A study of contrasts.
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