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Saturday, 13 October 2012

Dear Dutch doctors- a letter to the Dutch healthcare providers

Dear Dutch doctors,

For a while I believed that your system worked out great and was pretty satisfied with it. After all, my husband’s thyroid condition was being managed really well, with regular blood checks and adjustments of medication when appropriate. I wondered why it is that my expat friends complained so much about you- that they weren’t getting medications for their problems, or weren’t treated well enough. For a while I thought that maybe if they understand that sometimes you can treat some diseases without any medications at all, they will be just fine.

For my second birth, I planned a homebirth, and I was very grateful for having this opportunity, and even if it didn’t work out, I was happy for simply being given the choice. I felt my midwives took care of my pregnancy really well, on the one hand offering me all the time and support that come with seeing a midwife, and on the other hand they really wanted me and my baby to be safe so didn’t hesitate to order additional tests when they were necessary.

At the beginning, I went to see a doctor for many of Klara’s infections because I was afraid of ear infections that might affect her hearing. When we really needed antibiotics, you prescribed them, and they always helped. But I didn’t go to see my doctor that often (even if it wasn’t often to begin with), and I even started to feel proud of not giving my child so many antibiotics, or other medicines.

But another thing was that each time I went there I felt like you brushed my worries and concerns aside, as if I was panicking because my child had a slight infection or fever. I felt that because I am a foreigner I wasn’t worthy of your time. And that was another reason for not seeing you so much anymore. I thought that was just a cultural thing and I had to adapt to your way of thinking.

But now you have failed me, and failed me big time. The thing that tipped the scale was Klara’s operation in August- you totally missed the fact that her adenoid was too big and had to be removed. I know how you despise operations, but this one was necessary and her breathing is now so much better. When I went to see you, you didn’t even bother to look at her adenoid even if it’s a common thing for children in Klara’s age.

I didn’t go to see you for Julia’s cough because I was sick and tired of being patronized and dismissed. We went to see a wonderful German doctor who found that Julia had mucus in her lungs. It wasn’t anything bad so he prescribed natural coughing syrup- no antibiotics! But he was kind and he listened. But the Dutch doctors could have totally missed it and she could have gotten pneumonia.

The Consultatiebureau did send Julia to therapy, but it was only after I asked them whether she might need it. Only then did you take a closer look at her, and said that she might indeed benefit from physical therapy. Would you do it if I hadn’t asked? Another thing that made me very angry is the advice I am usually given whenever I go there for a check-up. It really angers me that I am asking how to solve a very particular problem and you respond with general advice I can easily look up pretty much anywhere.

Last week I had a talk with my midwife about how to deal with a possible difficult, long birth, something I am very scared of. I asked about the possibility of getting a C section if it seemed that the baby was getting too big or was in the wrong position. She said she didn’t see any reasons why I should get one. Oh well, she didn’t see any reasons, but what if I did? Why can’t we have the choice between a doctor and a midwife, and between a natural birth and a C section on demand? She basically dismissed my fears as unnecessary and unimportant. I decided to get a doula to get the support I need but will it be enough?

I don’t buy the “cultural differences” argument. Yes, the healthcare system is different than the one I’ve encountered in Poland or Germany. Dutch people are said to be direct and sometimes rude and maybe this is reflected in the healthcare system. However, I found this was not the case in the Netherlands and the people very friendly and open. On the other hand, doctors everywhere are often accused of not being able to listen, and to dismiss their patients’ worries. In the Netherlands, this is combined with the general reluctance to prescribe medication and the “natural” approach to health, pregnancy and children’s health, which results in expats being extremely frustrated with the healthcare system in the Netherlands.

Please consider this. We are concerned that we’re not getting good quality care in a civilized country and this applies to all aspects of healthcare- doctors, Consultatiebureaus and midwives. It really is a shame!


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  1. I shared this with the Facebook group this morning Olga. It seems that your experience is not uncommon sadly and we have quite the discussion going on about it. I got lucky with a wonderful doctor and am sad to see that this is the exception not the norm.

    1. Thank you for sharing this. It really seems to sound familiar to many expats, and this really is a shame. After all, the Dutch people are all about choices- homebirth/hospital, euthanasia, abortion, etc- why not seeing a doctor for a pregnancy if so desired? It really bothers me that the people I am supposed to trust failed me so badly, resulting in me having to treat my children elsewhere. The same people who are supposed to have a close look at my child, decided that I should know better than them- even if in many aspects, I can't! I am a big believer in parental intuition, but it doesn't always work and sometimes it tells you to go look for help elsewhere. This is so sad.


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