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Switzerland - Hospitals

Switzerland is well equipped with hospitals and medical clinics, although unless you have enhanced medical cover your health insurance will restrict you to choosing from hospitals in your own canton. In an emergency this rule does not apply. You will find general hospitals, university hospitals, and in city centres you can find walk-in clinics (not always covered by health insurance) for immediate diagnosis and treatment of illness. The walk-in clinics have X-ray and other diagnostic equipment but if you require hospitalisation or a specialist consultation you will be referred on. Other clinics include psychiatric clinics and rehabilitation centres.

On the whole hospitals are highly rated for their standard of care, although some are busy and may be keen to free up a bed for the next patient. University hospitals are teaching hospitals, therefore not all staff there will be as experienced as those found elsewhere. As is the case in most countries, the attitudes and helpfulness of staff can vary and different people can have very different tales to tell of the same hospital. You can compare the collated results of hospital surveys measuring patient satisfaction and success of treatment on comparis.ch.

Your experience can also be influenced by the level of health insurance that you hold, with the top tier (Privat) patients entitled to private (one bed) rooms and receiving care from the most senior staff. The middle tier (Halbprivat) are given a bed in a two-bed room, and basic insurance holders will be given a bed on a general ward. Private and semi-private health insurance holders also have the right to select their own hospitals and doctors.

Many doctors and senior health professionals speak excellent English. Nurses and other staff won't always be English speakers but normally someone can be found who can help. Staff in the walk-in clinics always include English speakers. If you speak a language not commonly used in Switzerland you can ask if there is a free interpreter service (if you have difficulty requesting this in a language that staff understand, it is likely in any case that they would consult an interpreter). If there is not an interpreter for your language on site, you may be able to access a telephone interpretation service.

The usual procedure for receiving hospital care either as an in-patient or out-patient would be to first see your regular doctor. He or she can then refer you on to the correct specialist. Even though healthcare is paid for privately, you will most likely be put on a waiting list and will not be seen immediately except in cases of medical emergency. It is not encouraged to self-refer, but your health insurance may nonetheless allow you to do so if necessary. Check this first with your health insurer.

On being admitted to hospital as an inpatient there will be some paperwork to complete, and you will be assigned a bed in a room or ward according to your health insurance plan. Usually you would not be able to upgrade your insurance where being treated for a pre-existing condition, e.g. if you knew you needed surgery for an ongoing problem and wished to pay more in order to have a private room, your insurance company are likely to disallow this. Expect to be subject to certain rules while in hospital, and for these to be enforced more strictly than you may be used to elsewhere. Visiting hours and mealtimes will be set and not open to negotiation.

You will need to sign a declaration of consent before undergoing surgery. You have a right to refuse a particular method of treatment if you wish to do so. Switzerland is not a compensation culture and will generally only do what is medically necessary to correct things if you are misdiagnosed or your treatment or surgery was not fully successful. However, staff are well trained and this should not cause undue concern. Do ask if you feel at any point you have not been given sufficient information on any aspect of your condition or treatment. Confidentiality will be observed by hospital staff and you will need to consent before any information can be passed on to others, including next of kin.

The Federal Office of Public Health (Bundesamt für Gesundheit) has responsibility for hospitals and medical care within Switzerland.

Useful Resources

Federal Office of Public Health
Bundesamt für Gesundheit, Hessstrasse 27E, 3097 Liebefeld
Tel: +41 (0)31 323 30 15

Information on Migration and Health
Information and electronic guides to healthcare in Switzerland
Schweizerisches Rotes Kreuz, migesplus, Myriam Kleiner, Werkstrasse 18, CH 3084 Wabern
Tel: +41 (0)31 960 75 71
Email: info@migesplus.ch

Swiss Hospitals Comparison
Hospitals in Switzerland compared by patient satisfaction, re-admission, infection and error rates

Best Hospitals in Switzerland
Premium Switzerland selection of leading medical specialists and hospitals (note: use of this service beyond initial online research is likely to incur charges)
Tel: +41 (0)43 539 42 00
EMail: medical@premiumswitzerland.com

University Hospital Zurich
University Hospital Zurich, Raemistrasse 100, CH 8091 Zurich
Tel: +41 (0)44 255 11 11
E-Mail: Use contact form

Geneva Tourism: Permanences
Contact details for walk-in medical clinics (permanences) in the Geveva area

Zurich Station Permanence (walk-in clinic)
Permanence Hauptbahnhof, Bahnhofplatz 15, CH 8021, Zurich
Tel: +41 (0)44 215 44 44

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