This morning I paid yet another visit to the Indian hospital for a pregnancy-standard glucose tolerance test. Several times, I have alluded to the fact that this hospital and its processes are difficult to navigate, so I thought I would do a little walk through of the process.
**Warning** There is one picture that might seem gross to some readers.
Step 1: Wait in line at Outpatient Billing to pay for your tests. That’s right, you pay in full, up front. If you stand in line long enough, you will see people, with presumably complicated or highly specialized test orders, roll up with huge wads of cash. My test was relatively inexpensive at Rs 740, about $16.
It is important to note that while this sounds inexpensive to us, most of the patients are getting paid Indian wages, not American wages, and this is fairly pricey. Furthermore, the hospital staff and even doctors are also getting paid Indian wages which keeps the hospital overhead far lower than at a US hospital. As a point of reference, my doctor here bills about $12 for a patient visit.
Step 2: Wait in line at Lab Reception. Nobody tells you to do this part. You just need to know. They give you one of those little collection bottles that many of us are familiar with and a number, then tell you to go give blood and urine samples.
Fortunately, the Lab Reception line is pretty tame this early in the morning. Later in the day the line winds all over the room, intertwined with the “Old to New Records” line and the “Reception” line.
Naturally, helpful details such as where the bathroom is, or where to leave the aforementioned urine sample are all overlooked. Perhaps more importantly, there is no warning that you best have brought your own toilet paper.
Thankfully, I have started keeping a stash in my purse. I find myself hoarding napkins at restaurants and stuffing a few extra squares of toilet paper in my purse at every chance I get. I must break this habit when I get home.
Step 3: Give your samples. First wait in line for the bathroom, then wait for your number to be called at the Blood Collection room. I had my act together this morning and scored #10 at 6:15 AM! Seriously, that is a huge deal!
Step 4: Choke down a cup of glucose. Those of you who have been subjected to this tortuous test before feel my pain. It is like drinking a giant cup of watered down honey. My stomach does flip flops just thinking about it.
Think the maple syrup chugging scene in Super Troopers, but worse because you’re in a hospital blood collection lab, not a diner. Blet.
Have I mentioned that I tried this test a few weeks ago? I puked. FAIL! That may be why I know the process so well now.
Step 5: Go back to Lab Reception to pick up the cup for my next sample.
One of my interest areas in grad school was operations management. Ironically, we did a case study on this hospital in International Ops class. I have another operational improvement suggestion for them: Give each patient all of their collection devices at once to eliminate multiple processing of the same patient and minimize the line at the Lab Reception counter.
I was able to talk the guy at Lab Reception into giving me the cups for samples two and three at the same time, but he sure wasn’t keen on that idea.
Step 7: Produce urine sample #2. Finally discover that the first bathroom stall is a western toilet, while the rest are of the squatting variety. ::Big sigh of relief.::
Depost sample at designated drop-off location. Ewww.
**Gross comment alert** Is it just me or are some of these samples really crazy colors?
*It is important to note that lines work differently in India. You do not necessarily get your turn by waiting in line nicely. More commonly, the most assertive, ahem aggressive, person in line goes next. Always stand your ground and do not be shy about crowding because if you leave personal space in front of you, someone will fill it and suddenly be ahead of you in line. As a borderline claustrophobe who really appreciates my personal space, this concept is extremely difficult for me.
Step 9: Repeat Steps 6-8. (And Step 5 as well if, you didn’t think to/weren’t able to talk the Lab Reception guy into multiple collection cups.)
Step 10: Sweet relief! Call your driver for a ride home!
Step 11: Wait 24 hours, then return to Counter 6A to collect test results. See comment above about aggressive line-waiting. It is definitely called for in this line.
Step 12: Make appointment with doctor to discuss results.
So thankful to be home now. Can’t wait to go back tomorrow for an adventure at Counter 6A!
All in all, it honestly isn’t such a bad experience now that I understand the process, but my first attempt at the glucose tolerance test made me never want to go back again. In retrospect, the queasy feeling that the glucose drink gave me the first time around probably did not help my attitude any. It may have helped that I discovered bathroom stall #1 this time around as well.