I was reminded of this when I was away in Spain recently and picked up one of the free newspapers in English. They’re possibly not the best examples of responsible journalism but if you can read beyond the rhetoric they do at least provide some local information.
There was what was supposed to be a horror story of a young English child who had broken an arm. It was presumably a bad break as the Spanish hospital decided to keep the youngster in hospital and wanted to operate. That much had the English family gleaned even though, they complained, they spoke no Spanish and the Spaniards wouldn’t have the grace to speak English. At this point I say hoorah for the EHIC. And just see how well you’ll get on without one post-Brexit. If left to your holiday insurance, you’d probably be arguing the toss for quite a while, with the insurance company trying to make out it was your own fault so no pay out would be forthcoming and even if they agreed to pay there may be no guarantee that they wouldn’t advise “Stay in Spain and get the op done there.” In the meantime you probably risk starting treatment and risk having to pay out of your own pocket. Ouch!
I do totally understand that if you don’t speak the language and don’t understand the local system it can be frightening if a member of your party is taken ill and particularly so if one is a small child. If I’d been nearer I’d have offered to help.
It was the sense of entitlement that angered me here the most, however. The family totally ignored the fact that if you go to a country where you don’t speak the language you are taking a risk. Put up or shut up or help yourself. There are several sources of help.
1. A good phrase book or Google translations will go a long way
2. Many Spanish people do speak English and especially medics as all medics world-wide need a good working knowledge of English. However, Spanish people choose not to speak English as they manage much better by reading and using body language.
3. A smile, a “Hola” or “Bueans días” of “gracias” can achieve miracles.
4. You can get interpreters.
I was also saddened by their lack of trust in the Spanish medical system. What was wrong with “only” giving the child paracetamol? It’s safe and effective, isn’t it? Why wouldn’t the operation performed in Spain be just as good as any performed in the UK?
Well, it’s not the good old NHS, is it?
Of course our NHS is brilliant. Let’s hope that post-Brexit it continues to be so. (Though sometimes patients go for days without eating, don’t they? Another complaint here levied at the Spanish system was that the child hadn’t eaten for three days.) But it doesn’t mean that other systems are useless or even inferior. Indeed, many British ex-pats sing the praises of the Spanish health care system. They know both systems. Has the Spanish system improved as a result of membership of the EU?
I’ve experienced being treated in other EU states and using the EHIC. When I broke a bone in my hand whilst in Austria and then had to have it recast and re-X-rayed on my return to the UK, the NHS were full of praise for the work done by their Austrian colleagues.
Well in the next two posts, I’ll tell you a couple more cringe-making stories, then I’ll get back to the joyous stuff.
And in fairness to the free newspaper, there were plenty of positive stories in that too.