In 2018, Bloomberg’s study has shown that Spain’s health care efficiency ranks first in Europe, and third in the world. Not bad, right?
Experiencing a universal health care system that cannot even be imagined in places like the US, Spaniards rightfully brag about how humane their country is. And that’s right. I’ve been told repeatedly that if a patient from outside of Spain (including outside of the EU zone) needs to be operated urgently, regardless of the costs or if the person is registered as a legal resident in Spain, he or she gets to have a surgery right away, in first-class public hospitals and from highly qualified medical doctors.
So what are the situations that might propel you to consider getting a private insurance? I will share my personal experience in hopes to help you decide.
In February, on the last day of my snowboarding holiday in Sarikamis, Turkey, I fell and injured my elbow. The emergency physician in Kars Public Hospital had me get an x-ray and concluded that I didn’t have a fracture. A day later, I was supposed to fly back to Barcelona, so this came in as great news. As a precaution, a plaster cast was applied to hold my arm until it healed, or better say, until I saw my family physician in Barcelona.
Things went well, and my family physician requested another x-ray for the next day in order to be sure that the Turkish doctor’s diagnosis was correct. I must say that this happened quite rapidly, and of course, having had my CatSalut card (Catalonia Public Health Card), I wasn’t asked to pay anything. The x-ray summary I got this time also confirmed that my elbow wasn’t broken, so essentially, I was told to rest for a week until I would get my plaster cast removed.
Turns out, the day I was scheduled to get it removed, things weren’t working well. I must underline that the whole time until this point, a specialist had not seen me. It was only family physicians and emergency physician diagnosing me. A nurse took out my plaster cast, but it looked like, I wasn’t able to move my arm at all: it was stuck on 50 degrees. When a doctor on duty tried to have me stretch and bend my arm, I cried out of pain.
So that’s when I was finally qualified to see a specialist, a traumatologist in Sant Pau Hospital, Barcelona after a long wait on the emergency room, along with a bunch of people who just fell from stairs. About seven hours later, I was finally diagnosed with regan-morrey type 2 fracture and told that I was going to be seen by a specialist within two weeks.
The funny part was this: Once the traumatologist at the emergency unit decided that my elbow should get checked within two weeks, I assumed that before leaving the hospital, I was going to get a cita (appointment) date and time. But it didn’t turn out that way. The administrators told me that my cita would be fixed later on and that I was going to get a call or a letter from the hospital.
Alarm bells rang for me because I was afraid. If Spaniards say that they’ll call you, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll actually get a call. With a broken bone on my elbow, I rather cared that this thing worked out.
First week past and I was obsessed the whole time to get a call from the hospital. Towards the end of the second week, I got impatient (and rather desperate) so I called all the numbers I could find of Sant Pau Hospital. Some didn’t answer. Others hung up the phone or I got the busy signal. At some point, I got to speak to someone about the situation, but she sounded indignant and told me that everything was under control. By the way, those two weeks had already passed.
Luckily, I have Adeslas (a private insurance company) which lets you see specialists right away. Searching through their Barcelona network, I had secured within a few days to not only get an appointment from a traumatologist, but also from one that specializes in sports injuries. This guy, quite hands-on and empirically driven and friendly, had me get a TAC (Tomografía Axial Computerizada), a tomography, to get a clear understanding of the fracture and had me get rid of my plaster cast right away. From the day I first saw him, I started to do baños (hot and cold water treatment), and a week after, physiotherapy sessions, all paid by Adeslas.
It was already three weeks after my visit to the public hospital that I got a call from them to arrange an appointment towards the end of the week. Don’t get me wrong, I did see the doctor from the public hospital because I liked to get a second opinion, and he was amazing. But the whole thing was so late, especially when you have a broken elbow and the first three months are crucial to your recovery and getting back your mobility.
So basically, I admit that public hospitals in Spain can be amazing, and they have rightfully gained respect in global rankings. But if you have an urgent situation (and you can have that anytime due to an accident) it is highly recommended to go with private insurance.
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