While most of us don’t mind a sniffle if it means getting to spend the day under the duvet watching NetFlix, no one likes being really sick – excluding those with Munchausen syndrome of course. Being sick enough to visit a doctor at home is already a chore in itself, but when you’re on holiday, a trip to the medical centre or hospital is the absolute last thing on your list of things to do – even moreso if you don’t speak the language of the doctors and nurses wherever you’re travelling. In Ibiza however, a trip to the hospital – should you need it, and I very much hope you don’t – can be a very entertaining experience, depending on how much pain you’re in at the time!
In the many years I’ve lived here, I’ve had my fair share of doctor and hospital visits – as most normal people do throughout life, wherever they choose to live it. When I’m immersed in the workings of the medical system here in Ibiza, I find myself feeling very much like an observer. At times, it feels a little like watching a television show – like the Grey’s Anatomy of Ibiza, but with a kind of telenovela vibe. And while you may think TV docs are glamorous with their perfect bouncy hairdos, bright lipstick and scrubs that are always perfectly fitted around the bust and tucked in at the waist… just wait till you go to hospital in Ibiza (and again, I really hope you never have to, I’m just saying!). Va va voom!
The first time I ever went to hospital in Ibiza was quite serious. I’d been very unwell but was avoiding the doctor partly because I’d hoped the pain and sickness would go away on its own, but mostly because I didn’t speak Spanish at the time and was (foolishly) nervous about the experience with a foreign doctor. I was in all kinds of pain – in fact, I was quite delirious from it – but what stood out to me during that particular experience in the emergency ward was what a show the many young tourists (you know the ones I mean, those who’ve over-partied until they’ve broken a bone or gone into psychosis) were putting on and what absolute patience the doctors and nurses had to deal with them, and deal with them kindly and graciously.
Watching the medical teams come and go and tend to their different patients, watching new cases come in and be assessed and treated, watching the staff gather together in the corridors for some sneaky gossip/flirting in between all the action – this experience made me realise that Grey’s Anatomy (yes, I’m a long-term watcher) is really not all that far from the day to day goings on of a hospital. I mean, there are probably less plane crashes and shootings and half sisters turning up out of nowhere (creative license and all that) but I could see that most of these people spent a huge amount of their lives within those hospital walls. And imagining their lives took my mind off my pain while I was recovering.
Over the years as I returned to the hospitals – sometimes for my own treatment, sometimes with friends – I would pay attention to whether some of my favourite ‘characters’ were still on staff. There was the most beautiful nurse I’d ever seen who wore red lipstick and shiny silver hoop earrings and whose eyes sparkled as she winked at all of her patients. There was the young physiotherapist who was also a yogi, who prescribed classes rather than pills. There was the sweet Indian urologist who spoke more English than anyone else in the hospital and was often seen translating for patients who couldn’t express themselves. They were all there: the Merediths, the Alexes, the Christinas, the Izzies, the Dr Baileys – the unsung heroes of Ibiza, working behind the scenes to patch up the sick and the stupid.
When I upgraded to private medical cover, my access to doctors and hospital services opened up even more. In the shiny white hallways of the private hospital were another crew of super-styled doctors and nurses to meet, even more on-trend, sexy and multi-cultural than the public hospital (If you’re a GA fan, think if it like the crossover from from Grey+Sloan Memorial to Private Practice). My first general practitioner was German – a really tall guy, covered in tattoos and wearing a ton of chunky silver jewellery. He spoke about five languages and I would have trusted him with my life (in fact, he saved it!)! The second GP I met was a cool surfer from Argentina, who had travelled the world and ended up in Ibiza, despite a distinct lack of waves – he loved the laidback lifestyle, and couldn’t quite wrap his head around the fact I thought my job in Ibiza was highly stressful. And when I took a step back and compared my job to his, well, it put a whole lot of things in perspective.
The only time I had to stay overnight in the private hospital was like checking into a luxury hotel (although they wouldn’t feed me) – after being asked whether I’d prefer my paperwork in English or Spanish (no matter how much Spanish I speak now, I’m not familiar with medical jargon), two very pretty nurses walked me to an enormous room with a view of Dalt Vila, handed me the WiFi code and told me to enjoy my stay. Of course, having a private room meant I couldn’t spend time people watching, to see the kinds of patients the hospital was admitting and the other doctors and nurses on duty, but it did have its charms (Netflix!). Not enough charm to make me ever want to stay there voluntarily mind you…
In more recent years, I’ve been opening my mind to more alternative forms of health treatments, which felt kind of like injecting those ‘guest star’ characters into the little Ibiza medical television show in my head. I’m almost ready for a spin-off series with my favourite guest star – an amazing kineseologist with her own private practice. It’s almost as tough to get into see her as it is to get guest list to an Ushuaia opening party but when you finally do, the wait is worth it. These days when I get sick (which is rare), I find myself looking forward to seeing this particular doctor – it’s actually an enjoyable experience (relatively speaking). In her waiting room, everyone – from toddlers, teens and bohemian looking adults to corporate, suited-up types, models, DJs and more – is smiling (even those who are sick) and friendly. They all know what I know… this is going to make you better!
When I was younger, I remember saying “I don’t like doctors” every time I got sick, but my combined medical experiences in Ibiza have totally changed that perspective. Doctors are wonderful, kind, caring, talented, skilled human beings who have dedicated their lives to helping others and I have endless respect for them. If you ever have to go to a hospital in Ibiza, and once again, I really hope that you don’t, you’ll see what I mean. Say hi to the cast and crew for me – while I can’t say that I miss them, I can say that I’ll be forever in their debt!
[Editor’s note: Ibiza’s hospitals are not surrounded by palm trees – we thought these photos were a little more inspiring (and discreet) than hospital beds and ambulances!]