Becoming ill in a foreign country is a concern for everyone, especially if you cannot understand the health system or speak the language. Although, we generally take good health for granted, we need to be prepared for any unexpected health related eventuality.
Anyone who has had the misfortune of falling seriously ill in Spain will agree that medical facilities in Spain are of a very high standard. Clinics and hospitals are very clean and Spanish doctors tend to be very thorough.
Of course, the availability of services does vary from locality to locality and you may need to travel to a neighbouring town or city for treatment.
In an emergency look for the urgencias (emergency) section of the nearest hospital. Before you have established yourself, for less urgent problems, it would be advisable to go to a private clinic to avoid a long wait.
For tourists and non-residents, form EHIC (European Health Insurance Cover) has replaced the old E111. The form E111 is no longer valid. You can apply online at www.dh.gov.uk/travellers. Have a photocopy of your EHIC ready to show the doctor the original and hand in the copy. You will find lots of information on health for travellers on the site mentioned above.
Farmacias (Chemists) in Spain are also excellent as a first port of call as they are very informative and you can usually buy a lot more over the counter than you can in the UK Many people relocating to Spain are on a budget until they establish themselves. For them, the big question on their mind is:
Am I Entitled to Free Health Care?
Spain’s public health service is known as the Instituto Nacional de la Salud (INSALUD). If you make Spanish social security contributions via your employment or your business you and your family are entitled to the same free health care as a Spanish National. Once you register to pay Social Security, you will become a member of INSALUD. You will be provided with a social security card (tarjeta) and be assigned a doctor.
If you are an EU National and have made contributions to your home Social Security scheme for two years prior to your arrival in Spain, you may be entitled to public health cover in Spain for a limited period dating from your last payment at home. In order to qualify for this, you need to take Form E-106 (pick this up at your local Social Security branch) to the local provincial office of the Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social.
Pensioners and those on incapacity benefit should do as above but with form E-121.
The Flying Doctors – Helicopteros Sanitarios
Helicopteros Sanitarios is an invaluable service for those with a home on the Costa del Sol. It is a 24 hour call out service available to members only. Seniors and parents of young children really appreciate the service, with its team of fully trained doctors that efficiently perform house calls after your quick phone call to their Puerto Banus centre.
Helicopteros Sanitarios is excellent value for money and there are different schemes available. Cover for an entire family of four is around 250 Euros per annum with an unlimited number of callouts. For membership details call (+34) 952 897 347. I should point out that despite their name; they generally turn up in an ambulance as opposed to an aircraft!
Private Health Care
Bupa’s Spanish division Sanitas offers the highest quality of health care options. They even have a unique health plan for expatriates living in Spain.
From as little as 27 Euros per month for the classic plan and 48 Euros for the complete plan you can have the peace of mind that should you need medical assistance, you will receive the best of care.
Those of you who have visited the Costa del Sol recently will have noticed the impressive new hospital building ‘Hospiten’ whilst driving along the N-340 in Estepona. All members of Sanitas can receive medical treatment in this spanking new, modern hospital.