petite anglaise

November 17, 2005


Filed under: french touch — petiteanglaiseparis @ 3:12 pm

I can hear the gynecologist talking on the phone in the next room. A personal call, judging by her cooing tones. Despite the fact that she is ten minutes late, that I am the only person in the tiny waiting room, sitting awkwardly on the overstuffed leather sofa, glancing at my watch periodically to see just how late back to work I am going to be, she is clearly not it any hurry to call me in. Classical music plays on invisible speakers, but does not have the desired soothing effect.

Finally, five minutes later, I am summoned in. I shake her hand, trying not to think about where it spends much of its time, and take a seat, opposite her desk.

“Now, remind me of your name,” she says, looking not nearly as bashful as she should, under the circumstances.

I comply, puzzled as to why she doesn’t have my notes in front of her. What does her secretary do all day? Blog?

“I seem to have misplaced your notes,” she continues, rising to paw through her filing cabinet half-heartedly, but apparently still drawing a blank.

I sigh, and refresh her memory as to the subject of our previous appointment, less than a month ago. Explanations out of the way, I am invited to strip naked (bottom half only) and take up the habitual position on my back, feet in stirrups.

My mother always told me that once you’ve had a baby, any inhibitions you used to have will disappear. I found this to be true during my pregnancy, largely because due to my burgeoning belly, I couldn’t actually get a clear view of what was going on down there anyway, but shortly afterwards, my inhibitions returned to haunt me with a vengeance.

Suffice to say that the snap of latex gloves being pulled on is not a sound I look forward to. Nor is the fact that French gynéco’s all seem to be rather fond of checking for breast lumps with their bare, cold hands, which is not dissimilar to being groped by a particularly inept sixteen year old boy.

Thirty seconds later it is all over, and when I return to my seat, a prescription awaits me. I pull out my cheque book and pen.

“Sixty five euros?” I ask, wondering if my memory can be serving me correctly.

“Oui, Madame, c’est exact,” comes the reply. Her nose is already in the next person’s file, signalling that I have been dismissed.

Inwardly fuming, I write my cheque. Sixty five euros for five minutes of her precious time. Sixty five euros to see a doctor who has misplaced my records, has no idea of my history, and yet feels qualified to make a snappy, thirty second diagnosis. Sixty five euros, all because she has a double-barrelled name and a tiny cabinet from whose windows you can almost, but not quite, make out the Louvre.

I mumble the usual niceties and take my leave, vowing never to cross her threshold again, even if she is within spitting distance of my office.


  1. I had to chuckle as I misread the last line, “even if she is withing spitting distance of my orifice”. Was that deliberate, Petite?

    Naughty girl!

    Comment by Germain — November 17, 2005 @ 3:42 pm

  2. Is “misread” a word?

    Comment by Germain — November 17, 2005 @ 3:43 pm

  3. misread is indeed a word. And any confusion between office and orifice was unintentional, and clearly the product of your own mind!

    Comment by petite — November 17, 2005 @ 3:49 pm

  4. Meeting soul mate + previous refs to wanting a sibling for Tadpole + two visits to gynéco in one month = conclusion?
    Or am I jumping the gun?

    Comment by Susan — November 17, 2005 @ 3:51 pm

  5. 65 euros and not even a view of the Louvre? You wuz robbed, missus! ;-)

    Comment by Iain — November 17, 2005 @ 4:22 pm

  6. Hi Susan. Gun very much jumped!

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — November 17, 2005 @ 5:09 pm

  7. But the cost will be reimbursed by your carte vitale, won’t it? Very much hope so as I have the same thing to “look forward” to next week.

    Comment by Cat — November 17, 2005 @ 5:14 pm

  8. Hey there,

    This is the first time I’ve put in a reply, and I have to admit I’ve been one of the shy ones holding back for awhile. I just had to join in with you on your frustration regarding French GYNs up ’til now. As a fellow Anglophone living in France, I have had my share of frustrations, but overall I love it here and I very rarely complain. I’m a pretty easygoing person in general! And I think, if I may say so myself, that I’m fairly patient. But after having run into a succession of medical issues that required frequent visits to said “female” doctor, I became frustrated with the cold, expedited attitude of the receptionist, as well as the increasingly condescending attitude of the doctor himself — also at 65 € a visit, and on a friend’s recommendation. Now, I can’t complain about his effectiveness; I think he is definitely a good doctor, but sometimes he didn’t seem to take my inquiries seriously. Of course, I’m sure there’s some of “me” involved in that, but I digress…

    In any case, what I realized after a year or so of this was that I could find a very good GYN who was actually also much less expensive — at only 30€ a pop, it was worth the difference! And Cat, in fact, it’s a complicated system, very hard to explain (I don’t get it all myself), but apparently you are only reimbursed a certain amount of your visit, depending on where the doctor is “classed” or at which level/sector he/she has set himself up. Which means that their price is a bit up to them, at their discretion, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be entirely reimbursed by the Secu. If you have a mutuelle, or additional insurance, that may very well be the case — then you receive full reimbursement of your medical costs. I currently do not, so I was only receiving something like 15 € back from the Social Security system on a 65€ bill. Which was pretty steep for me, especially given the condescension I started receiving on my end at a certain point.

    So I did end up taking my business elsewhere, although obviously I would have preferred not to. Once you establish a relationship with a doctor, it’s always hard to move on like that, no matter what. He helped me out in a lot of ways, but in the end, I simply didn’t feel comfortable. The irony of the matter is that I was originally seeing a woman doctor in the same office, but as she specialized in obstetrics, she wasn’t often available and was in great demand by many patients. So when I needed to see someone, her colleague was available, and that’s how I ended up seeing him.

    Anyway, sorry to be so long about this. I just wanted to add in my 2 cents and say that I feel for you — I’ve been there too! But the appointments don’t necessarily have to be that steep in price… There really is no corollary between the price and a good doctor; you just have to seek them out.

    On a sidenote, what I’ve always hated the most is how the doctor’s office here is a combination of his/her desk with the examining table right next to it, and how you have to undress right in front of the doctor before climbing onto the table! I’ve gotten used to it over the years, but what a shock the first few times around… (coming from a culture where there is always a nurse in the room in addition to the doctor and where you wear a cotton robe at all times — granted, it may just be a bit of the opposite extreme, but still!)

    Comment by Ace — November 17, 2005 @ 5:43 pm

  9. Brilliant post, you are in sparkling form, if 65 euros light…… but please, can you change the subject for the sake of the squeamish?

    Comment by fella — November 17, 2005 @ 6:29 pm

  10. OK, just wondered…!

    Comment by Susan — November 17, 2005 @ 6:35 pm

  11. I stumbled across your site a few weeks ago, and have been reading ever since. It’s fantastic!

    I’ve been obsessed with living in France since I was a teen (I’m a thirty-something as, well.) Unfortunately for me I’m an American and haven’t been able to come up with a scheme that would allow me to live and work there. Tant pis.

    Comment by buzzgirl — November 17, 2005 @ 7:42 pm

  12. you know what….ce n’est pas une particularité française…take the yellow pages and try another one…la concurrence existe aussi chez les médecins!…if you’re lucky, you’ll find the guy who says “je n’ai rien fait, juste un petit contrôle, vous ne me devez rien…” C’est rare,mais ça existe…
    In the Netherlands, you’d have to go to your “généraliste” who would check if you really need a gynécologue…and therefore ask you “do you have a problem? let me check…” mmm…

    Comment by Marie — November 17, 2005 @ 7:49 pm

  13. I had the same suspicious mind as Susan, I’m afraid… I was actually quite nervous reading the post!

    Comment by anxious — November 17, 2005 @ 7:56 pm

  14. How come doctors, but particularly gynecologists and dentists often don’t have the capacity to make clients feel comfortable? Despite the fact that with those two you can feel more vulnerable or more exposed so to say.
    After unpleasant experiences I found a dental clinic called Tooth fairy where the dentists speak you softly, directly and with all respect. Instead of white clothing they wear colourful t-shirts. First time I left a clinic smiling. I wish I find a gynecologist of the same type one day. Wonder what that clinic will be called..

    Comment by Maipenrai — November 17, 2005 @ 8:34 pm

  15. OK, I’ll see you and raise you one:

    A week after my last visit, I received a letter asking me to make a new appointment and included a perscription – with no instructions or explanation. Turns out the perscription is for an infection I didn’t know I had. I’ve taken the medicine, but I don’t go back until the middle of January, so I have to wait to find out how serious this is.

    And yes, I tried to call the doctor to get more information, but I never got past the secretary. “Ask at the pharmacy” was all I got.

    Sorry for the short novel, there. Maybe we need new gynos, tho. ;)

    Comment by Vivi — November 17, 2005 @ 9:08 pm

  16. why don’t you ‘shop arouns’ to see if you can find a nice “conventionné” gynéco !
    I put up with a horrible one when I lived in créteil (often 1 to 4 HOURS late !), cold hands, cold instruments, groping (hurting) my breasts, costing 200 F … But I kept returning, thionking they would all be alike ! Then, in 1999, I moved to Toulouse, and here in my quiet, countryside village, I found a lovely lady- gyneco, with care, tenderness warm hands (she actually puts them under warm water) with no snap on gloves and it costs me 25 € ….
    So good luck !

    Comment by Claude — November 17, 2005 @ 9:26 pm

  17. Nah………Petite, don’t change the subject – if they’re squeamish about a title, they should imagine themselves on the receiving end of the cold hands and the latex snapping hands……….

    Good on you for making it through – I think a chocolate is in order. I always reward myself after such visits – it’s a requirement, isn’t it? :)

    Comment by Kasey — November 17, 2005 @ 9:37 pm

  18. 65 Euros and it’s all reimbursed? Far out! No wonder the unemployment rate is 10% in France. Someone’s got to pay for the gyneco’s Mercedes and it’s all from taxes.

    Or have I been expatriated too long to think that 65 Euros is a total rip off??

    Comment by A Frog in Oz — November 17, 2005 @ 10:35 pm

  19. 65 euros? That is highway robbery Madame. Denfert-Rochereau, blvd Raspail – there’s a good Gyno there. And at about the third of the price. Right by the Lion

    Comment by Lauren — November 17, 2005 @ 10:54 pm

  20. Hmm………..seems like French doctors have been taking a cue from their Amercian counterparts with regards to bedisde manner. (Well, not all docs, as most of mine are pretty good at relating to patients, save one.)

    Now while not quite the same, I go every year for a coloscopy due to the fact that I have ulcerative colitis. Having a long black tube shoved up your rear would normally be cause for concern and no fun to boot, but fortunately the sedation they give is worth the price of admission. Best legal high I ever had………….30 dollars later (my co-pay) and I’m clean inside and out for the year……..

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — November 17, 2005 @ 11:44 pm

  21. Once in Lille I got a horrible yeast infection and had to go to a gyno there. It was a man and he was HOT HOT HOT. I wonder why good looking young men want to be gynochologists. Or maybe I don’t have to wonder too much…

    Comment by juliana — November 18, 2005 @ 12:17 am

  22. Got the same treatment from my Ob-Gyn, paying 70 euro for the pleasure. During every single ultrasound, he asked me if we knew the sex, he FORGOT that I had been scheduled to be induced, and the longest chat we ever had? It was when I was still half naked and he happened to remember that I worked in the same industry that his college age son wanted to work in, and he wondered if it would be possible for me to get him an internship with my company. Charming. I also hated the fact that I was required to get undressed for every single ultrasound. Why?!! For some reason, this just seemed like the most unfair thing in the world, a tiny grievance that just ate away at me for months and months. I was so irritated with him by the time the baby was born that I have not been back for a check-up since. Looking for someone new, but not looking too hard…
    Actually, petite, do you belong to the Message Mothers Group here in Paris? They have a doctors registry and people can recommend their doctors (or warn you away from the really bad ones.) I haven’t had a look yet for a new gynecologist, but this might be the best way to find one in your preferred neighborhood. Don’t know how much luck you will have finding one for under 65 euro though. I thought I was lucky that I wasn’t paying 100 euro, like all my girlfriends over in the 16th and 17th.

    Comment by Nicole — November 18, 2005 @ 10:18 am

  23. Frog in Oz: Most of the 65 euros is reimbursed by private health insurance (La Mutuelle). The state reimburses about 15 euros of it.
    French Sécu is good, but not that good!

    Comment by Mancunian lass — November 18, 2005 @ 10:46 am

  24. The French Sécu really isn’t that good. You might as well not be reimbursed at all for what you eventually get. I’m sure there are plenty of people suffering in silence because they can’t afford to go the doctor. Nicole, your doctor didn’t happen to be a certain Dr. M, located on rue d’Alésia in the 14th did he? Because my gynecologist did the exact same thing to me, he actually rang me at work to see if I could get his son an internship with my company. I sent him all the info and his son never even bothered replying. Some years ago, I found myself in the unfortuante situation of needing a pregnancy terminated. When I told (the same) GYN, I was pregnant, he exclaimed ‘Mais c’est pas possible!’ He then proceeded to turn the ultrasound screen towards me, point and say ‘Voilà le bébé’ with an air of ‘Well, there it is, I hope you’re proud of your stupidity.’ I suppose I should have chosen a different one after that, but just never bothered getting around to it!

    Comment by Anonymous Fille — November 18, 2005 @ 11:23 am

  25. I have to say after reading the above comments I’m oddly reassured to know that it’s not just me who has wanted to change gynéco for a while & hasn’t got around to it but also as frustrated as hell that we put up with such terrible service. When I read your post Petite I thought you were really lucky to have only waited 15mins. I have, without fail, waited AT LEAST an hour (usually nearer 2!) on each visit.
    I think I paid €70 the last time & I don’t have a mutuelle…
    AND it’s not enough that I’m semi-naked, no, I have to get fully undressed to facilitate the breast-check…?
    Anyway after all that would just like to say that I love the blog- keep it up!

    Comment by Yorkshire Lass — November 18, 2005 @ 1:38 pm

  26. Well, maybe you said niceties because you are English… Last time I’ve been charged for (according to me) nothing (a surveyor in London charged me £800 for giving a letter of agreement that was mandatory for me) I said that it was racket and robbery! He was not very pleased indeed, but I don’t say niceties in this case.

    Comment by vonric — November 18, 2005 @ 2:32 pm

  27. My ‘favorite’ trip involved hearing “well, if your symptoms continue and you have these same concerns in about two months, get in contact with me and we’ll refer you to a GYN” . . . from the woman who had just examined me! Ahhh, the joys of moving and being randomly assigned a doctor . . .

    Comment by emily — November 18, 2005 @ 5:56 pm

  28. As an American, I’m a proponent of “universal” or “socialized” health care. For thousands of reason, but the one you just wrote about the most. Each comment from some expat in France agrees: it’s impossible to find a good doctor. We might not have the best system in the US, but our doctors are paid to care. Others may disagree.

    At the university I attend (I won’t shamelessly plug my alma mater), the student health clinic is run akin to how I believe universal health systems are run in other countries. We, the students, must book very far in advance an appointment with the one attending gynocologist or nurse practioner if we expect to even have a yearly exam. The rooms are small and impersonal. The only positive note is that the doctors remain somewhat cheerful. Except my gynocologist always appears a bit severe. Then again, she does look in dark, little holes all day – and I think that would put a damper on anyone’s happiness.

    Good to hear you’re okay, though.

    Comment by Fixed Up Girl — November 19, 2005 @ 3:56 am

  29. I defn. meant opponent, not proponent!

    Comment by Fixed Up Girl — November 19, 2005 @ 3:57 am

  30. I got partially reimbursed for my gyne visit last year. It was actually quite painless and she tried to put me at ease when she noticed I was nervous. Call me if you want a reference. She’s busy busy, though, because she has so many clients.

    Comment by nardac — November 19, 2005 @ 10:26 am

  31. Why do so many of you go to the gyno? Most French women I know just go to their médecin traitant for their yearly visit, and save the gyno for when there are problems. It’s a lot cheaper, and you don’t need to wait nearly as long to get an appointment, plus they’re just as able to give prescriptions for the pill, etc.

    Comment by Samantha — November 20, 2005 @ 1:47 pm

  32. Fixed Up Girl, you are right…others do disagree.

    As a fellow American, I must state that I am very much in favor of universal healthcare. The same system that “pays our doctors to care,” is the same system that prices many people out of receiving any care at all. I injured myself badly my second year out of college; I had just switched jobs to a position that didn’t offer insurance to any employee who had worked less than one year (a terrifically common practice in my field) and I wasn’t able to afford the out-of-pocket cost to continue my old insurance. It took me almost 5 years to pay off the debt I incurred at the hospital.

    I think it’s common for Americans to feel like our health care system is working if they’ve never been caught without insurance. It can ruin you, financially, to get the care you need.

    Comment by nung nung — November 20, 2005 @ 3:02 pm

  33. I like reading the post, I wanted to give comment and I knew what to comment but after reading all the comments above I forgot what I wanted to write here :D

    Ops, sorry. Hmm sixty five euros for five minutes, how much do you have to pay if you stay there for about 20 minutes and she has misplaced your notes. wow. I’m also in Europe but I’m always imagining how France is. I don’t even know whether it happens in the Netherlands, too but i find sixty five euros too expensive for this

    (I don’t know if you’ve already received the comment’s awaiting moderation or not that I probably commented twice here, my internet connection has trouble, my apology if my comment’s twice)

    Comment by anonymuis — November 21, 2005 @ 10:07 pm

  34. Fixed up girl – I think you’ll find most expats have a tendency to complain about their host country. At least that’s what I can deduce from most of the comments. I, for one, am quite content with my medical experience in France. Canada also has a free healthcare system, and the doctors I’ve had there have been nothing but impeccable. Anyways… just more armchair viewpoints.

    Samantha – you should visit your gyne at least once a year from your twenties onwards. Pap smears and all those other gross things they do can help in the early detection of cancer.

    Comment by nardac — November 21, 2005 @ 10:27 pm

  35. Nardac, I realize that – if you’ll re-read my post, you’ll notice that I said that in France, most French women go to their regular doctor for their yearly pap test. They only go to the gyno if the pap comes back abnormal or if they have other problems, otherwise regular doctors are considered perfectly capable to handle the standard exams. Which is why I asked why so many were paying the extra money for a gyno appt, especially considering how expensive they are.

    Comment by Samantha — November 22, 2005 @ 7:02 am

  36. Nardac – I don’t think it’s necessarily that people are complaining about their host country, I think many of us are talking about specific incidents which we would also criticise in our home countries. I, for one, though the experience I mention above was distressing to say the least, am the first to tell everybody back home in England how good the French medical care is. I’m not a huge fan of the Sécu sytem (it took them 7 years to give me a number and those years cost me alot of money), but I think French hospitals and doctors give a very high standard of care. They may sometimes be a little ruder than you would hope for, but I think they are, in the main, extremely thorough and quick to accurately diagnose and treat a problem. I think it’s quite normal to have the odd gripe about a country you’ve moved to and very easy to have a romanticised version of your homeland, just because you’re not there.

    Comment by Anonymous Fille — November 22, 2005 @ 8:53 am

  37. My last french healthcare experience involved being sat in my bra and pants making jokes about cheap perfume with the Doctor.
    Mental note: stay away from Healthcare in foreign countries….

    Comment by Anne — November 22, 2005 @ 9:58 am

  38. I remember being charged $65 for a box of Kleenix (and not “special” kleenix–just regular old tissues you could get at any grocery for 2 bucks) from a hospital in the States when my mom was dying. Before she lapsed into her final coma, she sent me to Walmart to buy hand lotion because she was afraid it would cost $80 for Vaseline Intensive Care! (Although at this time of year, I would pay just about anything to not be itchy…)

    A little perspective on the “outrageous” cost of European health care. ;)

    Comment by Ronica — November 22, 2005 @ 10:07 am

  39. Anonymous Fille – I there are a fair number of comments on this blog that would testify otherwise. It often goes beyond mere griping. Take Anne’s comment for example… Not that I really care… I just often wonder why people travel so far to be xenophobic when they could very well just be xenophobic at home.

    I think PA could very well just be a french person griping about her bad gyne experience, instead of an “expat” griping about her bad french gyne experience. But of course, given the nature of her readership, everybody assumes it’s a chance to jump on bad french gyne/doctor experiences.(except for a certain giveaway gripe about the french teenage boy’s experienced hands… incidentally, tsk tsk, for that.) PA, if you are griping particularly about French gyne’s as crappy, take a page from my book. Try another doctor. Just like everything and everywhere else in the world, doctors aren’t created equal.

    Samantha – I know you’re right (though it wasn’t clear from your comment that GP do paps… my own GP recommended I visit a specialist for my pap). But, ewwwww, thoroughly prefer to go to a specialist when someone is scraping my womb!

    Comment by nardac — November 22, 2005 @ 1:33 pm

  40. Well, interesting debates sparked off on this one… I agree that the cost of gyns and doctors is expensive here. Coming from a place where your gp is free to visit, I find it very expensive to have to pay…. but must add that I find the French system to be very good and the doctors I have dealt with (both through appointments and in emergency situations at 2 hospitals) to be very good and very efficient.

    The price of my gyn however, is over 120euros…. per few minute visit, and not including pathology…. but as your health is the one thing you cannot skimp on, I think they are worth every cent! (and before anyone comments, no, I am not going to any particular arrondissement – it is outside the peripherique – and I do not have loads of money – I am unemployed and being supported by my husband on a very bad expat package)

    I would not have put up with the rudeness that some of you have mentioned though. Cold hands and instruments aside, we are the ones paying for the service and it is our bodies they are dealing with. Pick someone you can relate to and who you feel comfortable dealing with…. doesn’t matter what they cost.

    Comment by tea4two — November 22, 2005 @ 3:35 pm

  41. It’s all about choosing the right doctor, really. The sécurité social always reimburse the same amount (70 % of the tarif conventionné : 20€ for a GP, 27€ for a specialist), whatever your doctor charges.

    So, you’ve got to fish around, ask people who they recommend. My gynecologist takes 27€, is never more than 30 minutes late and is great !

    Comment by Jenny — November 22, 2005 @ 4:47 pm

  42. Well, the health care we had in South Africa was far superior to my general experience in the US (my primary care doctor excepted). The doctors were well trained, took plenty of time, and treated me as a whole person, not just a body part. They were open minded about alternative therapies and very accessible.

    Comment by Small Town Diva — November 22, 2005 @ 10:25 pm

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