Postcard From...Tbilisi


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The Independent Online

Everyone has had the feeling that the doctor might be making a guess at what is wrong with them rather than giving the perfect diagnosis, but in Georgia, people are terrified of doctors giving them the wrong medication.

Across the region, decades of the Soviet medical system mean that doctors are cut off from international research and often err on the side of over-medication, prescribing all kinds of pills and injections even if a patient presents with a minor headache. In Georgia, there is the added worry that the doctor may not have finished medical school, but simply bought their degree.

Everyday corruption in Georgia has been minimised since the Rose Revolution in 2003, but in the tumultuous decade before that, everything was for sale, leading many people to suspect that certain doctors may have bought their qualifications rather than earning them legitimately. One woman I spoke to said that she would specifically look out for doctors who had trained in Russia, as there was a perception that it was harder to buy medical degrees there than in Georgia.

Another young Georgian said that he visits two different doctors whenever he is ill, and doesn't mention to each that he is seeing another doctor. He only accepts the treatment if both doctors give the same diagnosis. "I once had kidney pain, and one doctor told me I was on death's door, and the second one told me there was nothing wrong," he says. The third doctor concurred with the one who said there was nothing wrong, and the pain soon passed. "It was a pretty good lesson – always get a second, and a third opinion!" he laughs.