Going To A Dutch ER? Bring Your Laundry Detergent!

My faith in the Dutch healthcare system has suffered a new low today after our experience in A&E (ER for my American cousins). The Dutch word used to describe A&E is “Spoedeisande Hulp“, or Urgent Help, and it is anything BUT.

Herself managed to get bitten by our prized pooch when she found herself on the business-end of his canines whilst trying to separate him from another dog when they had themselves a doggy dispute. I rushed home and whisked her off to our local hospital.

We weren’t sitting in the waiting room in A&E for very long before being brought into the treatment rooms. The first thing I noticed when we walked in was a long desk, where about 10 computers were lined up in a row, every one of which was occupied by a doctor, or at least someone wearing a white coat, masquerading to be a doctor. Clearly they were busy updating their Facebook status or twittering about the latest patient that had just walked in through the door, because it was another hour sitting in the treatment room before anyone came to actually look at herself’s hand.

On the plus side, I did find out where all my tax money and €4,000 a year in health insurance premiums are going…a kind old lady (hospital staff of course) came into our room and asked if we would like tea or coffee. Glad to see my exorbitant premiums are being spent wisely on key headcount choices.

Eventually a young nurse came and looked at her hand. She clearly didn’t have enough authority, training or confidence to decide for herself what the treatment should be and informed us she’d have to go out and consult with her “colleague”. That’s Dutch code for “I haven’t got a clue and need to speak to my superior who knows more than me, but given that we pretend to be a flat hierarchical nation, I’ll call her my “colleague” and not admit to you that he/she is my superior and knows more than I do“.

Another 45 minute wait and a doctor decided to finally pay us a visit with the young nurse in tow. This is when I could REALLY see my taxes and insurance premiums at work. The doctor asked when it happened. Not sure why she bothered asking us this. I think given the wound was so fresh looking, still bleeding and herself clearly in pain, it could hardly have happened the previous day, or last week.

Doctor – “Hmmmm. Did you happen to wash it before you came to the hospital?”

Herself – “Yes, I cleaned it in disinfectant soap at home and then came straight here.”

Nurse – “Do you think we need to open the wound more to flush it?”

Doctor – “No it’s big enough, and you don’t need to flush it, and don’t stitch it. Just get the patient to clean it herself in the sink over there and give her an anti-biotic.”

I’m sat with my arms folded and cannot believe what I am hearing, or about to hear next.

Herself – “Where I come from, we have hydrogenperoxide or sodiumperoxide to help clean out wounds. Can I get that here in the pharmacy?”

Doctor – “Oh, we don’t have anything like that here in the Netherlands. What we usually recommend is that you wash your wounds in BIOTEX.”

Me – “In what?”

Doctor – “You know….BIOTEX….laundry detergent. You can get it in the supermarket.”

Me – “WHAT??? Are you SERIOUS?”

Herself – “What about iodine or something”

Doctor – “Mehhhh. There’s ACTUALLY no real difference between using water versus iodine or hydrogenperoxide. Water is just as good…just as long as you clean the wound regularly.”

Hmmmmm. I must tell that to my ophthalmologist who was adamant about not getting any water into my eyes after my surgery last week because of the risk of infection due to the amount of bacteria found in tap water. Seems there are NO bacteria to be found in the Dutch household water supply.

So there she was…..hand in the sink, washing it herself over a sink in the treatment room, no nurse or doctor to supervise or help. Eventually some old geezer arrived to give us the prescription for her penicillin and to give herself a tetanus jab.

So now I have learned something new. I have learned that apart from the copious amounts of paracetamol one needs to have in their medicine cabinet here in the Netherlands (one self medicates here in Holland and only goes to the doctor to be told something they already knew), I realised I have been missing one key piece of kit in my first aid box…..LAUNDRY DETERGENT. I guess the only question left unanswered is, should I get the traditional lavender fragrance, or the ocean fresh one?

10 thoughts on “Going To A Dutch ER? Bring Your Laundry Detergent!

  1. Pingback: U.S. Style Healthcare Arrives In Netherlands | IrishmanAbroad.com

  2. Just read your dogbite/Biotex/in the Netherlands story. Being from the Netherlands myself, but living in South Africa (since 1967) I have been using Biotex since it came on the market, I believe in the 50s. I often suffered from nailfungus of the hands, Discovered if I used any cleaning material or other soappowder than GREEN Biotex, forhandwashing, this didn’t occur.. . Also a familymember (on holiday in SA) bumped her shin against the car’s exhaust and it became a nasty festering wound, treatment by SA docter didn’t help at all. When at home in the Netherlands her Dr advised her to put her leg in Biotex water.
    It took some time but, voila! After long suffering all was healed! I don’t seem to find Biotex here in the shops anymore, whats happening?

  3. Lol. I lived in NL for ten years, and was also shocked to hear about Biotex (the magical green one with the enzymes). That and you’re advised for any festering wound – even after surgery – to “just shower it twice a day”. Strangely, I find myself living back in N. America for less than four months, and here I am searching for an enzymatic laundry soap (like Biotex) to keep on hand for this disinfecting purpose. I was semi-assimilated. Resistance was futile. 😉

  4. Funny article! I live in the US (12 years) and I am Dutch and I am searching the web to see were I can get biotex (green) after a cat bite two days ago (nothing major), and the idiot of a doc I have here did not do a thing, except putting me on a heavy duty AB course, which seems to be answer for everything here! So…..with my next visit to the Netherlands next month, I will make sure I will take biotex green back. And btw… it works wonders! Should definitely give a try!

  5. Biotex is wonderful for this. Not stitching is also the best option, bites are never stitched because you could get an infection if stitched. I use biotex for a lot of things, andcleaning wounds is one of them.

  6. Biotex is the best. Infections? nasty wounds? Just soak it in biotex
    It works just fine. It’s more or less the same as the American ‘baking soda’.
    Been using it since childhood, it always did the trick specially with larger wounds

    And we don’t stitch small bite(s) or leave it partially open. Been bitten by a german Shepard, a large open wound, they only put 2 stitches in, which kinda made the would look like a number…. 8
    Why? Because, nastiness needs to come out instead of being trapped inside the body

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