Thursday, 24 April 2014

U is for Urgences

Healthcare in France is said to be second to none.

There are a few bureaucratic hurdles to be negotiated by the incoming foreigner, and it can take up to two years to be recognised as a valid member of French society, but once you are in receipt of the gilt edged Carte Vitale, your health is in very safe hands.

Let me explain. Healthcare in France is not free, but most people are entitled to at least 70% off the cost of it at the point of delivery, providing they have the magic green plastic card. In addition to this, you can choose to pay for top up insurance which will then write off the remaining 30% you generally have to pay yourself.

So, providing you have the carte and even better if you have a mutuelle insurance, you can benefit from superb care and services.

My forays into the French healthcare have been illuminating. I sliced my finger on a glass and was stitched up in double quick time at the local A&E. I visited my GP about some 'wimmins' troubles' and had scans and blood tests done within the week. The very nice young man with the scanning machine gave me the results and the pictures then and there - how impressive is that?

But my most entertaining brush with the urgences was a year or so ago when I was experiencing a little bother with my heart. A tourist at the time, I had private health insurance so I called the company to ask where I should go for a check up. I think the girl on the phone was new to the job and she leapt at the chance of an all out 'all points' alarm call.

I was told I shouldn't drive myself to the hospital and that transport would be sent. I strolled round to the local creperie with my son and friends to wait for the car. Embarrassed was not the word when I saw an ambulance parking up at the end of the road. Horrified does not describe how I felt when I heard the chopper flying in across the bay.

A very nice paramedic had me strapped and monitored before I could splutter "I say, this really isn't necessary!" Then four hunky policemen in black polo shirts and stubble helped load me into the helicopter. My friend stood by with the camera and helpless laughter.

It was a fabulous ride along the north Brittany coast in an August sunset. It was marred only by the fact that I was prostrate and had to crane my neck to see the azure water crashing against the rocks.

Suffice it to say, on arrival at the hospital I was thoroughly tested and kept in overnight, to be released the next day with no sign of any real problem.

That episode alone convinced me this is a good country to be in if you are at all worried about your health.

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