Alan Cuthbertson – Doctor, no mañana, hoy!

Anybody who has visited Spain will recognise the word mañana. It´s real translation means morning or tomorrow. If someone Spanish tells you that is when something is going to get done, then they mean, not today.

I don’t know if it´s the culture, attitude or just the heat but everything seems to be done much slower over here compared to the UK. Well that’s what I thought until I needed to use the Spanish National Health System.

I often hear the stories from family back in England about the difficulty getting doctor`s appointments and the long wait for referrals, not to mention the costs of prescriptions, so when I arrived in Spain and needed to visit the doctor I was expecting the worst.

I mentioned I needed to see the doctor to one of my Spanish friends whilst in the bar one night.

“Do you have one of these?” he asked in broken English showing me a green card.

“No” I replied, not knowing what it was.

The next day he took me down to the local government offices and helped me fill out a few forms. Apparently if you work or are a pensioner you are entitled to full medical cover, if not you have to contribute a monthly fee. Within the week my green medical card arrived.

I sought out the friend who had helped me get the card to ask him how I go about getting an appointment. I presumed I would have to go to the local town 8km away to the new hospital to see the doctor.

When he explained the system, I couldn’t believe it. Our village only has about 250 people but every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, a doctor, nurse and pharmacist turn up. There is a small, fully equipped surgery hidden away behind the bar. You go at 9am and put your name on a list. At 10am the full medical team turn up. I´ve now been a few times and there has never been more than 5 people waiting. Amazing.

I need regular medication, being an asthma sufferer. The doctor puts my medical card into a machine and transfers all the prescriptions directly onto it. Every month I go to any chemist in Spain and present my card. It´s not unusual for 4 items to cost me less than E10 (£8, that´s less than one item in the UK).

I did have a nasty fall once and had to go to the new hospital in the local town. I turned up at the A&E department expecting a 4 hour wait. I was in, X-rayed, seen by the doctor and discharged within 45 minutes. Thank God, the medical staff don´t use the phrase MAÑANA.

Don’t forget if you visit Spain for any reason bring your EHIC card and make sure you have insurance.

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