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Croatia - Health Service
Medical Treatment For Tourists
Citizens of EU and EEA countries can access emergency medical care in Croatia if they are carrying a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), but must pay the same financial contribution towards their care as that required from local people.
The financial contribution is a set fee charged to anyone in the country who uses the services of a doctor or dentist, or who receives a prescription. Ambulance services are free in Croatia.
You may be asked to show your passport as proof that your EHIC belongs to you. Always check that the emergency treatment is being provided by an EHIC authorised service. If you are treated at a private hospital which has no public care contract with the Croatian Health Insurance Fund, none of your costs will be covered or subsidised by the EHIC. Be careful about recommendations from a hotel or travel agent, as they may recommend a private doctor to you, without explaining the implications.
The EHIC does not provide any cover in respect of non-emergency treatment. You will be expected to pay the full costs of these services. If you arrive in Croatia with the intention of giving birth there, the EHIC will not financially contribute towards these services.
If you don’t have an EHIC card with you, whether you forgot to bring one or because you are a citizen of a non-EU/EEA country, then you will be expected to pay the total cost for all care you receive in Croatia. This even applies for emergency treatment following an accident or illness. It is therefore imperative that you obtain comprehensive medical insurance before you arrive in Croatia.
Emergency Numbers In Croatia
If you find yourself in need of help when visiting or living in Croatia, these emergency numbers can be answered in English:
• Ambulance - 112
• Police - 192
• Fire Services - 193
• Sea Rescue - 195
• Roadside Help - 1987 or 00385 1 987
Expat Use Of The Croatian Public Health System
If you are a resident in Croatia, you cannot use your EHIC and you must join the Croatian Health Insurance Fund (CHIF).
There are some exceptions to this rule; if you are a citizen of an EU or EEA country and your employer posts you to Croatia, it is possible that your emergency treatment would be covered by an EHIC. Expats living in Croatia who are in receipt of an exportable pension or other exportable benefits may also be entitled to EHIC cover, as long as they obtain the certificate of entitlement known as an S1 form. However, the number of people covered by these exceptions are low, and the cover provided is restricted to emergency treatment by CHIF contracted services.
Everyone who is a member of the CHIF scheme will pay into the fund, usually by payroll deductions. You are then entitled to use the public health services, although you will be charged a mandatory contribution fee each time you access them. This fee is non-refundable, unless you hold a private healthcare insurance policy which accepts these costs. If you do, make sure you keep all receipts and paperwork in order to back up your claims.
Access to non-emergency hospital services is via your family doctor, who will refer you to a specialist for further investigation and treatment.
The Standard of Medical Facilities In Croatia
As in many other countries, the medical facilities on offer in Croatia vary. In big cities, such as Zagreb, you have more specialist and general medical staff working in facilities which have benefitted from high levels of funding. Residents of small villages in rural areas will have access to basic services, such as a local family doctor, but will be required to travel for anything more sophisticated.
The private medical tourism market in Croatia is growing strongly, with migrants arriving daily for a whole range of medical and dental treatments. Zagreb has benefitted from a €330million investment in its new airport, opening the city up to Asian and Middle East markets. Treatment and care fees are lower than charged in wealthier countries, but the services are of a high quality and attract an international clientele. During the recuperation period, patients can combine their aftercare with a relaxing holiday.
The investment into facilities, staff training and high standards of care in order to grow the international business benefits those local residents who can afford private care, or who have access to good private health insurance.
The public healthcare system does not offer luxurious facilities and extras, but maintains a reputation for high quality treatment.
Croatia Has Clean Tap Water
The water and sewerage systems in Croatia are designed and maintained to modern standards. As a result, you can drink the tap water across the country. The authorities have also invested heavily to keep beaches and coastal sea waters clean for the millions of tourists who visit Croatia each year.
Mosquitoes start to appear during spring and are out in force by midsummer. Whilst they are annoying and cause itchy bites, malaria in Croatia was officially declared eradicated in 1964.
Smoking In Croatia
About a third of Croatian adults smoke, which is a high rate by European standards. Restrictions to smoking were introduced nationally in 1999, reflecting those seen throughout Europe; nobody is supposed to smoke in a public building, advertising is restricted and under-18s cannot legally purchase any tobacco products.
In reality, the law is poorly enforced and it is left to venue owners to clamp down on offenders. Restaurants and some cafes are entirely smoke free, but many bars and nightclubs allow customers to smoke. Where ashtrays are visible, owners are making it clear to customers that no action will be taken if they smoke there.
The use of electronic cigarettes is slowly growing in Croatia, but the authorities restrict them under the same classification as tobacco products.
It is perhaps no surprise that the three most common causes of death in Croatia are ischemic heart disease (IHD), cerebrovascular disease and lung cancer. The risk of contracting each of these serious diseases rises significantly for frequent smokers.
Mental Health Services In Croatia
There has been a recent and dramatic shift in attitudes to mental health services in Croatia. Perhaps unexpectedly, given the terrible and long-lasting effects of the Croatian War of Independence on the population during the period 1991-1995, patients in the country with mental health needs have only been treated with modern standards of psychiatric care in the past few years.
Mental health hospitals are the traditional routes for treating these patients, and outpatient care was hard to find. Everyone from alcoholics to those born with learning difficulties found themselves confined to large institutions. Regulations on chemical and physical restraints were absent, and patients spent decades living in dormitories with no control over their food, daily activities or routine.
Within the past ten years the system has started to change, albeit slowly. Hospital residents are being rehomed in supported housing units, and psychiatric care is increasingly offered on an outpatient basis whenever possible.
Expats living with mental health conditions who need regular treatment may find it difficult to access English language psychiatric help, and won’t have a range of options. Your first call should be to visit your family doctor, who can find out which services are available. If you are able to pay privately or have a comprehensive health insurance policy, you will likely have faster access to mental health treatment.
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