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Spain - Health Service
It is normal when needing surgery in Spain to be added to a waiting list although these are generally not as long as the waiting lists in the UK. Many people will have private healthcare insurance for situations where they need surgery in order to avoid waiting, so this keeps waiting lists at a minimum. Spanish medical staff deal only with medical treatment, all other care is expected to be provided by the family or carers.
In 1998 the Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Sanidad y Consumo) issued the ‘Carta de Derechos y Deberes’ which is a charter outlining the services to which both patients and medical staff are entitled. A leaflet outlining this can be collected from any hospital or health centre. The charter gives patients the right to choose their own doctor and health centre. The Ministry is also responsible for checking the qualifications of medical staff and all medical staff needs to be registered in their own region with the local Medical Association.
In order to qualify for low-cost health care a resident needs to be registered with the department of social security. They will be given a certificate to prove their status and which will allow them to make an application for a health card (Tarjata Sanitaria Individual - TSI). This will cover around three quarters of the cost of treatments and medicines. The rest of the cost can be covered by the patient or by private medical insurance, which is readily available. Those who do not qualify for registration with the social security department will need private insurance which covers the full cost or will need to pay the full cost themselves. The health card will need to be presented when you visit a hospital or health centre for treatment.
Anyone who is living legally in Spain is able to register with the social security department but they must be employed, self-employed, a student, a civil servant or in the military. All residents are issued with a social security number which stays with them for life. If a worker does not have a number it can be requested by the employer. Proof of ID such as a passport is needed, along with a certificate which proves residency status.
If you should need emergency medical treatment during your time in Spain then you can call the emergency services using 112. Those who have a Spanish social security card or one of the European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) are entitled to free emergency treatment, but only in state hospitals, not those in the private sector. Any treatment not considered to be an emergency will be charged as usual. There are some agreements with other countries such as Brazil and Andorra where emergency medical treatment can be free but those from other countries outside the EU will need to have private medical insurance.
There are counselling organisations in most areas although these services are not often free. There is now a branch of the Samaritans on the Costa Blanca which does offer a free service and there are plans to open more around the country.
Spain has some of the strictest anti-smoking laws in Spain which have been recently introduced due to the high numbers of people who die there each year from smoking-related illnesses. Other health problems such as obesity and heart disease occur regularly although levels are not as high as they are in other countries.
Counselling in Spain
Directory of counselling groups
Costa Blanca Samaritans
Tel: 902 88 35 35
Ministry of Health website (in Spanish and English)
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