Many have posted positive reports about going to Katowice, Poland and receiving excellent care. I do not doubt nor do I dispute any of these accounts. On balance, I would like to weigh in with our experience, the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
I also want to clarify that we were Americans visiting their country. It's not fair to expect the same standards or for everyone to speak our language. I'm amazed at how many speak excellent English since it took me the entire time I was there just to learn how to say "good morning" in Polish. When it comes to our medical care, however, I do think it's important to understand the severity of the language barrier in advance.
I also respect the Europeans for re-using old buildings instead of tearing them down. I mention them here because I had such a fairy tale vision in my head of modern facilities based on the EuroMedic website, and wanted to paint a more accurate picture.
Qubus Hotel: The stay here is included in the cost and we LOVED it. Our requested non-smoking handicap accessible room smelled wonderful, no hint of cigarette smoke even though smoking is permitted in the halls. The room was large, bed was comfy, view was amazing, bathroom massive, staff courteous and professional, breakfast excellent, and lots to do and see without ever leaving the building thanks to adjoining mall with shops, restaurants and theater. The front desk staff speak English.
Drivers: Majek and Chris were courteous, funny, and spoke excellent English. They were a big help to us, especially Chris. Majek was helpful too but his driving is a bit scary.
Eye test: We were taken to a nondescript building that barely accommodated my wheelchair. A non-English speaking eye tech performed the quick, painless test while driver Chris interpreted. I didn't
understand the instructions at first and wonder if the test was done correctly for that reason. I was handed a print-out of the results, color-coded but by no means understandable to a lay person. Chris, who is not qualified to interpret the results, told us "Don't worry, green is good!" And that's the end of that. They do not interpret the results, they only explain that it's for research purposes. All well and good but naturally I want to understand my own test and wonder if I'm the one footing the bill for their research.
MRV: Another nondescript building (by this I mean that it is a bit run down by our standards, nothing fancy but not necessarily "bad"). I met some lovely English-speaking staff there. The test was routine. If you've had an MRI you know what to expect. There is no dye injected. The results were not provided on a CD, which was disappointing. Instead we got a two-page print-out of the thumbnail images. CORRECTION: I later discovered that there were 2 CDs full of images in the bottom of the envelope! Sorry, hands are very numb and clumsy... I simply didn't notice them. Awesome pictures, twice the number I received in the US. My sincere apologies.
Euromedic: I'd love for them to publish the photos of this place on their website, especially the drawing in the entrance hallway of a large marijuana leaf with a line through it, as in "no smoking weed in the building, please." The building is old and dated but the inside is clean and I think they tried to make it cheerful. I was expecting a hospital, you know, with nurses' station and long gleaming corridor with rooms on either side. It is a clinic at best with only two patient rooms with three beds each partitioned off by curtains (actually I didn't see where the men stayed but assume it was the same as the women's). The beds aren't much bigger than cots. The call bell is up high and behind the bed, out of reach. The light switch is across the room. The shared bathroom is small and not handicap accessible.
Blood test: Those Polish nurses are excellent. My veins are a challenge for even the most seasoned phlebotomist but they efficiently got the job done.
Doppler: What doppler? No one in my group received a doppler.
Pre-Op Care: IV was started on the first try, breaking all records. That was awesome. I was catheterized which was a bit uncomfortable. A neurologist interviewed me, then lectured me for not being on DMD's. I smiled politely. No sense arguing.
Pre-Op Consultation: This barely happened and only because my husband insisted. The doctor was in an extreme hurry and seemed irritated and impatient. I was already on the gurney so wasn't really involved unfortunately. We had only 4 questions, one of which was about May-Thurner and entering from the left (we had emailed the question in advance), but given the attitude and the fact that Dr. Simka was not there that day, hubby let it go. One of our requests which we expressed to Marta was for hubby to scrub in and be present. "Who told you that?" barked the doctor. My husband was expressing our preference for stents if there was a question either way but in midstream the doctor turned to enter the procedure room where I was being wheeled in. My husband tried to yell to me through the door that he couldn't be there with me and while he was still speaking the door was slid closed in his face. So much for that.
Venogram: Going from the crude makeshift clinic into the procedure room was really something. It couldn't have been more modern or high-tech with monitors and equipment. They gave me anesthetic and I didn't feel a thing. Before the procedure started I turned to say something to the doctor but again with the irritability: "Do not turn your head! Keep your head straight!" Sheesh. Nobody had told me that so what's with the attitude? I was always compliant, smiling and pleasant, so it's not like I was a "problem patient." Ladies, be prepared because you will remain exposed from the waist down. I could not see the screens and no one discussed anything with me during the procedure. I just lay there feeling chastened. It was over before I knew it and I was wrapped tightly in a bandage around my hips, then wheeled out.
Post-Op care: The doctor came in to explain that both jugulars were ballooned. No bedside manner so I tried to make up for it by working hard to make him smile. I succeeded. IV's were run and replenished frequently. Lunch was served on a plastic bed tray. The nurses spoke very little English but were kind and cheerful (taking their cues from me... I'm cheerful by nature and they responded to that). I had left leg pain which was unusual because the procedure was done on the right. The nurses had a doctor come in, who checked my pulses and could find nothing wrong. The nurses unwrapped my pressure bandage but the pain persisted so pain meds were run thru the IV. I have no idea what drug was used. The pain eventually subsided. My incision never gave me the slightest discomfort. The nurses left it alone. Dinner was served. Husband left at around 8 pm.
Night nurse came in, she spoke no English at all. I was not offered any water (but the men in the other room told me later that they got water). The lights were turned out. My one roommate was Polish and lived nearby so she left. I was alone in the dark. I could hear nurses chatting from somewhere and could smell cigarette smoke. Then everything got quiet. Very quiet. Quietest hospital stay ever. I could see my surroundings a little as the door was ajar.
I slept then awoke needing to use the bathroom. With no way to call the nurse safely (call button in awkward place and I have severe balance issues), I got up and used my wheelchair as a rollator. I made my way to the bathroom in the dark only to find that the entrance to the bathroom was narrowed due to some equipment being in the way. I had to park the wheelchair and hold on to things to make my way into the bathroom, which was not handicap friendly (no grab bars). This was repeated 3x in the dark and I kept thinking the loud toilet flushing might alert the nurse but she never came in.
Sunday morning the two nurses from the previous day came in with breakfast which I didn't touch (hotel breakfast much better). A doctor came in with a prescription for the injections (no instructions for giving the shots, no instructions for incision care, nothing about taking Aspirin) and a disk of the procedure. I tried to ask questions but he said he couldn't answer them as he was not involved with my care. The nurses helped me get dressed and it seemed they were in quite a hurry to get us out of there. Our driver took us back to the hotel.
The next day we expressed our concerns about the above to Marta, who was sympathetic and promised to make them known. She is very sweet and obviously none of this is her fault. We requested a refund for the doppler.
So... I guess the lesson here is, EuroMedic in Katowice is not run like an American hospital. Their standard of care is far lower than ours. I am not sorry I went but I do feel I was at risk of getting hurt in that place. It all turned out ok but... if you have plans to go to Katowice, be prepared... and buyer beware. I hope they improve.