In search of a doctor


Back in the UK, we’re actively discouraged from visiting the hospital, unless it’s a life or death emergency. I can probably count the number of times I’ve been taken to hospital on my hands. In Ethiopia however, GPs don’t exist in the same fashion.

For anything more serious than hay fever or sunburn, hospitals are the only places where you can receive medical treatment. So, after having a persistent cough for over three weeks during the ICS program, I decided to break my internal resistance against visiting the hospital for anything less than broken bones.

Our induction process included visiting the two hospitals VSO have contracts with: The Korean Myungsung hospital and Hayat hospital. This was mainly to show us the impressive facilities offered within a developing country, so we wouldn’t be hesitant to visit if we fell ill. Thankfully they’re both only a short line taxi journey from my host home.

The Korean hospital has an interesting history. Completed in 2004 after a request by the prime minster, it serves as a dedication to the 1000-4000 troops sent by Ethiopia to fight in the Korean war during 1950-1953. Any surviving veterans receive free medical treatment, and the hospital plans to create a medical college in Addis within the next five years.

So, thinking it might be more amenable to ferengi (and only 3 minutes down the road), I decided to visit the Korean Myungsung Christian Medical Centre for a check up.


The main lobby of the hospital is split into two areas: people waiting for doctors, and people waiting for appointments or paying their hospital fees. As I arrived on my own, the process for actually seeing a doctor was quite confusing. In order to get some medication, you’ll most likely have to make several trips between the numbered windows in the pictures above, the nurses desk, the GPs office, the laboratory, and the pharmacy. So, just in case there are any ferengi confused on the prospect, i’ll break it down for you:

  • Request a new patient card from the nurses desk and fill it in. You’ll need the Woreda, Kebele and House number you’re staying in, along with some other basic information.
  • Hand it in to window 5. Look astonished as they give you a shiny personal medical card within a few minutes and start preparing a new file.
  • Head back to the nurses desk and speak to a nurse about your problem. Get your blood pressure and weight taken in the same area. Receive your referral to the GP and wait in the opposite half of the foyer. Wait for your file to wing its way down to the doctor’s office, then go and have a chat with the doc.
  • After receiving a diagnosis, go and pay for your check up at window 3. Then get told to move to window 1 as you’re a credit patient.
  • Sign a billing slip for your check up, and head on over to the ‘laboratory’ (up the hall) for a blood test.
  • Get some blood taken by a nurse in a room full of people. Possibly worse if you’re a fainter.
  • Receive a call back time for your results (usually a few hours)
  • Kill some time.
  • Go back to the nurses desk and tell them you need a new appointment for your results.
  • See the GP again, and get prescribed some meds.
  • Go back to windows 3-1 and sign the slip to pay for them.
  • Visit the pharmacy to get your antibiotics/oral rehydration solution/whatnot.
  • Leave happy 🙂