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The Netherlands (Holland) - Health
This is a reputation that the Dutch are proud of, and they invest 11.9% of DP each year on health - a percentage that's topped only by the YSA.
Health insurance is mandatory in the Netherlands, and there are four different types available - Zorgverzekeringswet (Zvw) is a basic level of insurance covering general medical care; Wet langdurige zorg (Wlz) covers long-term nursing and care; Wet maatschappelijke ondersteuning (Wmo) covers everyday support services; and Jeugdwet covers short and long term medical care during youth.
All Dutch residents are insured by the government for Wet langdurige zorg (long-term nursing and care), but individuals are responsible for taking out their own Zorgverzekeringswet (basic healthcare insurance). If you have children under 18, they can be covered under your insurance policy, however you must inform your insurer that you want your children to be covered.
For foreign visitors staying in the Netherlands for less than a year, their visit is classed as temporary and they aren’t obliged to take out compulsory insurance. They will, however, require health insurance of some sort. Any EU citizens holding a EHIC (European Union Health Insurance Card) will be covered as long as their stay is temporary. As soon as they become permanent residents, however, they must take out a Dutch healthcare insurance policy.
Students from the EU, EEA, and Switzerland are not required to pay for health insurance, unless they are working full-time, part-time, or as part of a paid internship. Non-working students are provided with a EHIC or an international declaration form.
If you move to the Netherlands, you must take out at least a basic level of health insurance within the first four months of arriving, even if you already have a policy that covers treatment in the country.
Healthcare is very accessible to English-speaking expats as almost all doctors speak fluent English. There are also plenty of English-speaking counselors and psychologists available to help and treat English-speaking expats. You should be aware, however, that their services will not always be covered by your health insurance.
In the event of an urgent medical emergency, you should call 112 for assistance. Although the operator will answer the call in Dutch, they will be fluent in a number of languages, including English. The number is free to call and, once they have established the situation, the operator will pass your call onto the ambulance, police, or fire department as necessary.
The ambulance service in the Netherlands isn’t free of charge, so you should only call if the patient is unable to travel by car or public transport.
For non-emergency healthcare issues, a huisart (GP) should be your first point of contact. Dutch GPs are able to deal with routine health issues, as well as carrying out standard gynaecological and pediatric examinations, and referring patients to hospitals, specialists, midwifery, and physiotherapy.
As soon as you’ve arrived in the Netherlands and have arranged your insurance, you should register with a GP close to your new home (although you should be aware that not all practices will be taking on new patients). If you would like to meet the doctor before registering at the surgery, this can be arranged.
Appointments can also be made with the doctor’s assistance for procedures such as blood pressure readings, urine testing, and some injections, or with the practice nurse for the monitoring of chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes.
In addition to GP services, there is a wide range of ziehenhuis (hospitals) in the country, many of which offer excellent standards of care. There are a number of different types of hospital and each have their different specialisms – university and research hospitals offer the most advanced equipment, treatments, and specialised care; teaching hospitals also offer some specialised treatments; and general hospitals help with more routine conditions. Unless you require emergency treatment, you will require a referral letter from your GP in order to attend a hospital and be registered on their database.
In terms of pharmacies, there are two types in the Netherlands – drogist and apotheek. At a drogist, you’ll find non-prescription medicines, toiletries, cosmetics, and essential baby products. At the apoteek, on the other hand, you can purchase prescription-only drugs, over the counter medicines, vitamins, essential baby products, homeopathic products, and medical equipment.
Apotheeks provide a 24-hour service, and there will always be one open during the night in your area. Wherever you are in the country, you can find the nearest out of hours apotheek by calling 020 694 8709 or visiting www.apotheek.nl (the online list of pharmacies), selecting zoek een apotheek, and searching for your postcode.
Attitudes towards smoking in the Netherlands are similar to those in the UK. In 2002, the Netherlands introduced the Tobacco Act 2002, which banned smoking in places of public access, government buildings, and institutions. This ban was later extended to all public transport and enclosed communal spaces that serve transport such as waiting rooms and enclosed platforms. Under this act, tobacco advertising was also banned, as well as the sale of cigarettes to people under the age of 18.
In 2004, further restrictions were introduced that made a smoke-free workplace a legal requirement for everyone, and then in 2008, restrictions were extended to cover restaurants and hotels.
Interestingly, these rulings apply to tobacco smoke only – the legal smoking of cannabis in dedicated coffeeshops is not affected, and certain small pubs are also excluded from the ban.
Important healthcare numbers
112 – police, fire, ambulance
020 592 335 – Amsterdam: Tourist Medical Services (ATAS)
035 6928222 – Centrale Doktersdienst – central doctor service for urgent medical advice
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