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France - Hospitals

France has an excellent healthcare system and there are both private and public hospitals. There are very few private hospitals which do not have any dealings with the public sector, so you may find that some of your treatment needs to take place in a private hospital, even if you normally use a public one. Public hospitals are often referred to as a general hospital or a local hospital and will have the initials ‘CH’, regional hospitals which are recognised by ‘CHR’, specialist hospitals ‘CHS’ or university hospitals ‘CHU’.

If you are admitted to a public hospital you need to give them your health insurance card ‘carte vitale’, a copy of the notice you received which confirms that you are entitled to state health care and proof that you have your own health insurance policy. The cost of treatment in these cases is covered by the local health authority. Those who have an ‘E’ certificate, such as the E106 or E121, will still need to produce the other documentation in order for the authorities to cover the medical bills.

Each year there is produced a league table of all the hospitals in France and this is published in ‘Le Point’ the French magazine. Each hospital is assessed on its treatment of different illnesses. These should not be taken as an accurate assessment although they can give you some idea of how each establishment is performing. There are very few differences between the standard of care in public and private hospitals.

Not all hospitals have facilities for dealing with emergency outpatients so you may find that you have to travel some distance to the nearest one if you need emergency treatment. If you are making your own way there it is a good idea to check if they have an Emergency Room before you leave home to save a wasted trip.

In some areas of the country hospitals will provide an out of hours medical service known as ‘maisons medicales de garde’. This is a 24 hour service and it might be offered by a GP or a medical professional based in a hospital. This is a recent service so it has not yet spread to all areas. Other areas will have doctors operating a rota system to provide 24 hour emergency medical services.

There are so many hospitals in France that it would be difficult to give details on them all, but there are several online listings which can help you to find hospitals in your local area. France does have a number of well-known hospitals which have an excellent reputation. The Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris is one of these. It is a public hospital in Paris and has the distinction of being one of the largest hospitals in Europe. The ‘Hopital Necker – Enfants Malade’ is the children’s hospital in Paris. It is a public establishment and is one of the main teaching hospitals in the capital. It is famous for being the first children’s hospital in the world and still has a good reputation.

Other cities in France also have good medical facilities. The Centre Hospitalier Lyon Sud is one of the largest teaching hospitals in the Rhone-Alpes region and is linked to the university at Lyon. It dates back to the 19th century and has an excellent reputation. In Toulouse the ‘Hopital de la Grave’ covers an area of six hectares and for many years was the second largest hospital in the country.

If you need to attend a hospital with English speaking staff then there are two located in the Paris area. One of these is the American hospital of Paris, which was founded by the USA and the staff are mainly American and bilingual. The hospital offers a wide range of medical treatments from oncology to surgery. In addition there is the Hertford British Hospital. All nursing staff are trained in Britain, including the midwives and some of the doctors are also trained in Britain. The hospital is subsidised by the French government and the medical services include general medicine and outpatient services.

In other hospitals you will find it much harder to find English speaking staff, although some of them may have basic conversational skills.

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