Why all this Spain bashing of late? Perhaps it’s down to a subliminal loathing for a country that enjoys more sunshine than miserable old Blighty or is it just the British need to kick a dog when it’s down?
The current whinge is about health cover for British holidaymakers. Some claim – mostly insurers, ironically – that some Spanish health centres are refusing to take European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) and it seems are paying ‘sweeteners’ to all manner of Spaniard to trap tourists with hefty healthcare bills by directing them to private hospitals. The finger is being pointed at tour operators, policemen, taxi drivers and hotel workers who are apparently all in collusion to outfox the naive foreign tourist. Sorry, but this strikes me as utter hogwash and is probably the result of dyspepsia or an overactive imagination on the part of those who usually appear only too happy to extract the very last copper from their policyholders.
Having used the Spanish healthcare system –both state and private- as a holidaymaker, and for more than a decade as an expat resident I can honestly say it appears far superior to that of the UK. There are big differences however in the way the system works and if holidaymakers do their homework before travelling, they’ll discover that there are many private as well as state run hospitals in the country and a third type run by private management but which provide state funded treatment. Only state funded hospitals will accept the EHIC so private institutions should be avoided unless tourists have health care cover as part of their travel insurance.
A year ago while on holiday in Ibiza my son fell ill and I asked a policeman for the nearest hospital outpatients’ department. Two minutes away we walked into what turned out to be a private hospital. We have Spanish health insurance cover but when we asked if there was also a state run hospital nearby, the receptionist was only too happy to offer directions. The policeman hadn’t tried to deceive us: he was just trying to help and probably assumed that we’d have private health cover as so many Spaniards do. Unlike in the UK, and if one shops around, there are excellent low cost health insurance deals to be had, so it’s quite normal for locals from all walks of life to use both state and privately run clinics and practices.
Here in Majorca the recently opened Son Espases hospital in Palma is state run and will of course take the EHIC which is provided for tourists in an emergency. In fact I have encountered many Britons who have used the facilities and have nothing but praise for the treatment that they received. Every summer our local English newspaper, the Majorca Daily Bulletin, is filled with thank you letters from British holidaymakers praising the healthcare they received at Majorcan hospitals, often after life threatening incidents.
Yesterday my husband went for a ten o’clock appointment at one of Majorca’s best eye care units and was seen immediately. In the belief that he might need further treatment, the doctors urged him to stay on for further tests. Although he speaks good Spanish, the various medical experts went out of their way to speak English to him. And it’s not just the hospitals. In Soller at our local state run clinic I waited barely five minutes to be seen by one of the doctors last week and as usual I received a warm and cheery welcome.
There will always be exceptions to the rule, but how I wonder would a Spanish national fare walking into a BUPA run hospital in the UK if he didn’t have private health cover ? Come to think of it, how would he be received in a typical outpatients’ department of a busy and overstretched NHS run hospital even with his entitlement to reciprocal state health cover? More to the point, how long would he have to wait to see a doctor?
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