"Rarsha hez ze byest doktors in ze verld!"
Oh, the number of times I've heard that refrain. Yes, they admit, we live in a hideous shithole where the standard of living is low and many people struggle below the poverty line. Fair enough, they concede, people are so rude to each other on a daily basis that society as a meaningful concept does not exist. "But," they say with a triumphant smile, as if playing a trump card, "Soviet education system was best in world and this means Russian doctors are ze best!"
At least there is something to be happy about! Alas, the statement has one minor flaw, in common with most other statements displaying Russian patriotism -- it's total bullshit.
The first little clue as to the lie of this claim is the glaring fact that male life expectancy is a pathetic 59 years. I was describing someone to a friend recently, and I said: "Oh you know, he looks like your average 60 year old Russian guy," to which the response was, "You mean, dead?" Good point.
Still, the Russian man's propensity to snuff it at around the time your average Western male is beginning to think about settling down to thirty years of golf and gardening can probably be ascribed to living in social and meteorological conditions tailor-made to induce depression, and a lifelong diet of zharenny kartoshki washed down with vodka and a pack of Yava Golds. So perhaps we can't blame these amusingly early deaths on the Russian medical establishment -- it is no easy task to convince the whole of Russian manhood that there are other sources of vitamins than dill, and that "exercise" should typically involve something more strenuous than regularly beating your wife .
Equally, we won't blame Russian doctors for the huge percentage of heart attack cases that die before they receive treatment -- it's not their fault that they live in a society where some minor oligarch can whip through traffic to take his slut girlfriend out to dinner but ambulances are forced to wait with the rest of the plebs in traffic. Nor will we dwell on the fact that -- fuck the Hippocratic oath -- if you ain't got cash, you don't get treatment. It's not nice, but then, doctors are no more corrupt than anyone else round here. And finally, we will forget about the absurd number of doctors in the regions prescribing ludicrous folk remedies, involving vodka, mustard, leeches, whatever.
So, Russian doctors get the benefit of the doubt in all these tenuous cases. But even a look at the best doctors, practicing in the best Moscow clinics, reveals a portrait of incompetence and idiocy. Watching a Russian doctor dispense medicine to patients is like watching a fat Novy Russky "sponsor" dispense cash to his waif girlfriend. In both cases, they operate on the principle that the more they give, the more they will be respected.
Last year a friend of mine had a nasty headache for a few days, so he went to a decent Russian clinic to find out if something was wrong. The doctor did a few perfunctory tests, shook his head gravely, and gave her an injection. He told her to come back for the next two days to receive another two shots, and he gave her three different types of tablets to take at various intervals. Somewhat alarmed, she headed to the European Medical Centre for a second opinion. The doctor there told her to get some rest and take aspirin if she needed it. In a couple of days, she was better.
I used to know a Ukrainian doctor who'd trained at length in the West. He'd worked for a while at a TB clinic in Ukraine, and explained that doctors would just hand out random medicines to patients, whether they needed them or not. When he attempted to withdraw unnecessary medications, patients would get angry, and accuse him of denying them treatment to cut costs. In the end, he said, he decided only to stop medications if they would actually do harm to the patients, the rest of the time letting them guzzle down the vast quantities of placebos.
There are thousands of Russian medical incompetence stories, but given that this is a short column and not a Tolstoy-sized compendium, I had to select the best. And unfortunately for me, my favorite idiot Russian doctor story involves my very own penis.
I'd been on holiday and had a whirlwind romance with a lovely French girl, her sophistication and elegance -- and ability to look beautiful without caking on fake-Louis-Vitton-handbag-fulls of makeup -- made her a glorious breath of fresh air after my lengthy confinement in the slut hellhole that is Moscow. Unfortunately, however, a couple of weeks after my return, I noticed that I had more than just thoughts of her long dark hair and big blue eyes to remember her by. With a penis that each day looked more like the forehead of an acne-ridden thirteen year old from podmoskovye, and no trips to the civilized world on the horizon, I realized I was going to have to do the unthinkable -- take my penis to a Russian doctor.
I get some advice from friends in a sexual health NGO, and set off to what's supposed to be the best sexual health clinic in Moscow, at Sportivnaya, where an overweight and hungover-looking doctor asks me to whip my pants down before proceeding to inspect my poor suffering chlen. Despite having been screamed at on entering by the receptionist that I had to don a pair of bakhily (those stupid blue plastic bags they make you put on your feet), the doctor clearly feels that it's OK to delve right in to my privates with no gloveage whatsoever.
So, should I wish to lick the floor, I could guarantee it would be clean -- however, the same could not be said for the chubby fingers that were now inspecting the end of my cock. I can't help feeling that they've got their priorities wrong. $200 of tests later, and the verdict: "Nothing wrong. Probably allergic reaction to anti-malaria tablets you have been taking. Use these three creams."
So, off I go, three creams in hand, rubbing them onto my cock at regular intervals. A week later, and not only are the spots still there, but now there is peeling. This is not good. I feel like a leper. So I head to a posh clinic near my house at Belorusskaya for a second opinion. I head up to the urologist, who promptly lies me down and asks me about sexual partners. She lubes up a couple of scrawny fingers and sticks them into my arse, all the while telling me to think of the Eiffel tower (I had told her about the French girl and she now seems to think I'm French). "Think of Paris -- the city of love!" she says, pushing further. After this, I'm told that I should have an ultrasound scan of my kidneys ("Because it's always good to check your kidneys") and see the dermatologist.
Feeling anally violated, I head to the dermatologist's room. She takes one look at my genitals and says curtly -- "It's not an STD. It's thrush." The cure, apparently, is in three parts. There are another two creams, and a bottle of liquid spray which, I am told, I can "use all the time -- it works the same as iodine." Oh yeah, because I use iodine all the time. The third part is what for all the world looks like a purple felt tip pen, with which I am to color in the head of my penis twice a day.
Despite this triple therapy, all I have to show five days later is the same sore, peeling cock, except that now it's purple from the felt tip pen. In despair I google "male thrush treatment".
Fluconazole 150mg. A single pill. That's what the website says. I go to the apteka, buy it, and take it. Within 12 hours I have a completely normal penis. Two weeks, several hundred dollars, multiple tests, five creams and one cock marker later, and all it took was one measly little pill.
And that is why Russian doctors are shit. In the future, I'm self diagnosing and self treating. I don't give a damn what it is -- cockrot, migraine, stroke, heart attack -- either way, I think I'm better off with Google than with the useless, clueless, corrupt jokers that are otherwise known as the Russian medical profession.