Newbie Tuesdays: The medical test

xray

In order to get a Residency Permit for Qatar, every expat must have a medical test to make sure they don’t have any infectious diseases. They take blood and do an X-ray to screen for Tuberculosis, Hepatitis and HIV. My medical test took place around 1 year ago. In 2011 this was the day before Ramadan so it was pretty much that day or nothing.

I have to say that it was one of the worst experiences of my life. It was awful. Horrendous. I didn’t cry, but when I got back to work I was told that I was one of the few.

Unfortunately, on the day I went, normal protocol was chucked out the window so I can’t give much practical advice on how the whole thing runs. Basically you are given a form, go up to a window, exchange the form and then get ushered into a room for your blood test and then another room for your X-ray. It sounds easy, except when you hear that about 200 people stand between you and the window. As far as I could tell you’re supposed to get a number and go from there, but I was never issued with a number so I don’t know how that whole process works! I do know that there is a different room for employees and spouses so the first thing you need to establish is if you’re in the right room or not. I’m pretty sure the spouses are in the room on the left, as you walk in.

In honour of my medical test anniversary, here are some hints so that it isn’t so bad for you.

Go early

The centre opens at 7 am and you really want to be there at the front of the queue when the doors open. If, like me, your company schedules your appointment for 10 am, do whatever is in your power to get them to take you earlier. Make your own way there if you can. Just get there early cause if you do, the whole process will take half the time.

And for heaven’s sake, if you are lucky enough to get there early please do not leave the line when you are waiting outside! That door will open and before you can say “TB” you’ll be at the back of the queue.

I arrived at about 10.30 am and the whole process took me about 3 hours. The attendents who issue the forms will go for prayer break so you need to factor that into your timing.

Take someone with you

Beg, borrow and bribe with chocolate to achieve this. If you go alone you will not only be completely overwhelmed but you will have no one to mind your spot for you if you need to go to the loo! Most people there had a team mate. Those of us who did not were extra frazzled! But keep in mind that men and women are split up so your buddy has to be the same gender as you.

Talk to the people around you

Bad news is, if you must go alone, you will truly be alone. And if you can’t speak Arabic you will be stuffed if you need help or if a woman comes out of the office and starts yelling at you all in a language that you can’t understand (it will happen). So, you need to make friends. Talk to the women around you. They will probably be funny and kind and hugely sympathetic. In these situations I find it always helps to have a good laugh and trust me, the chicks around you will get the joke! There’s nothing like bonding over mutual discomfort and the sheer horror of being pushed up against someone else’s back sweat!

If things get ugly, you might need their help so play nice – no pushing and the likes, ok?

Take supplies

Take food and water. You’ll be waiting a long time. Don’t add hunger and thirst to the list of annoyances you will be experiencing! If you can fit it in your bag, take enough to share.

Some people had books but since I couldn’t get a seat I didn’t have a chance to read. Also, I preferred to spend my time manically swivelling my head and looking around the room for any sign that the queue I was in might actually move!

Clothes

Wear comfortable shoes. No brainer there.

Wear comfortable clothes that cover you well but are easy to roll above your elbow for the blood test.

Wear a white singlet top for the X-ray. You will be herded into a makeshift change room and asked to put on an apron. This may or may not be clean plus you’ll be racing to get this thing over and done with so you might not have the chance to tie the apron up properly. So that the X-ray is clear you’ll have to take off any jewellery and your bra (because of the underwire). If you’re wearing a white singlet top you can just take off your bra and keep the singlet on so you don’t have to flash the whole world ON TOP of being exposed to radiation!

Keep calm and stay put

Don’t panic and don’t leave. If you think you’re going to cry, grit your teeth and don’t. If you think you’re going to freak out, don’t. There’s time for that later – for now, just get that damn needle in your arm. If someone comes up to you and tells you that you have to leave because you don’t have a number, even though you’ve been waiting in line for over 2 hours, don’t. If you think it’s all too much and you’ll just come back tomorrow, don’t. Dig your heels in and stay where you are until you have that slip of paper that confirms that you lost your dignity today but are 1 step closer to residency!

Expect the worst!

Then it won’t seem so bad, right?

 

How was your medical test? Any hints to get through it?

Image from here

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Comments
7 Responses to “Newbie Tuesdays: The medical test”
  1. ummon says:

    Do they still have this damn thing! I had mine 13 years ago, and nothing has changed it seems. In UAE you can get it done in licensed private clinics. Similar to the eye test for driving licences in Doha. Earlier you could only get it done at the Traffic department.

    • Velvet says:

      I think they are starting to give alternative options but I don’t think they’re widely used yet. Thank goodness we only need to get it done once!

  2. Melissa Savage says:

    I would offer some queuing advice based on my couple of years of San Diego Comic Con (both solo and with partner I was in various queues varying between 4-12 hours). Luckily the end of those queues brings something fun, but you can totally apply it anywhere.

    I second the bit about making new friends. We camped overnight in a queue last year and made a friend we are still in contact with. At a minimum your new friend will totally mind your place while you go to the loo.

    You can totally read while standing up. At SDCC 2011, my Kindle saved me in queues AND I worked my way through a big chunk of the Game of Thrones books.

    Veteran con-goers also carry around a fold up camping stool for sitting down in lines. I managed to snag one from the 2011 con which advertises a now-defunct TV show (this one http://twicsy.com/i/JFpfK).

    • Velvet says:

      I don’t think the chairs would work in this case but the rest is definitely true. Comic Con sounds like a blast. Morgan Spurlock came to the Doha Film Festival last year to screen his movie about it-it was great!

  3. Anthuan says:

    My wife had to undergo the same process a couple of months ago. The lack of organization and of English-speaking people is very tolerable. The first is the norm here (where little to no planning takes place), and the second comes from a sense of entitlement that should not exist (after all, the country’s language IS arabic). The worst part seemed to be being shoveled into a room where you have to undress in front of people you don’t know, while the abbayah-wearing people get the privilege of a single room.

    Well, at least they don’t even pretend to have equal treatment.

    • Velvet says:

      I think most people find the undressing part the worst, hence the advice to wear a white singlet top. I hated the shouting the most!

  4. Helen Sach says:

    Hi Velvet!
    Love your blogs! I wanted to add to the Clothes bit – I was so fortunate when I first came to Doha and facing my medical that one of my wonderful neighbours (a Kiwi no less!) told me to go bra-less and wear a T-shirt under whatever your outer covering is! She assured me that if I did this I would go to the top of the line as everyone had to go and change out of their mufti clothes – and it worked like a charm! Thank heaven for those sisters Kiwi’s of ours huh? (yep, I too am an Aussie but from Brisbane!!) and she has been not only an amazing friend and neighbour but pointed me in the right direction for so many other things during our three years and I am still learning! LOL
    My Aussie nurse friend and I have had some very funny experiences and frustrating ones at times too.. will send you one of our anecdotes via email! :)
    Keep up the great work Velvet!
    Helen – an Aussie in Doha!