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The Spanish Health System

Discussion in 'Medical Problems' started by Covey, Aug 12, 2009.

  1. Covey

    Covey Active Member

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    This year for the first time, I needed the services of the Spanish health system. Having reached the top of El Ceriebo I became ill and my traveling companions insisted I went to hospital as I was behaving oddly!!

    They called an ambulance at 10pm in the evening which arrived in 20 minutes and took me to the clinic (State) in Villafranca where they took one look at me and put me back in the ambulance and sent me to the general hospital in Lugo. I arrived there at around 2am and was immediately seen by two doctors who ran a battery of tests and they said at 4am that I needed a CAT scan.

    They said that there would be a delay of 15 minutes in getting the scan which was actually 10 minutes and hey presto I was being fed into the CAT scanner. At 5am they said I needed another CAT scan and was immediately wheeled into the radiology dept for another one without any delay.

    I was becoming concerned that the large number of blood tests they were doing would leave me drained of blood and at 9am they said they wanted to do a lumbar puncture to try and find the source of the very high fever I had.

    Just as they were about to do the lumbar puncture, they found a lump on the back of my leg, which they probed and drained, and then declared that the original worries that I had had a stroke, were possibly not true and that I had blood poisoning which was causing the problems. At this point I was on four drips with various antibiotics and saline, but was happier with the blood poisoning idea rather than a stroke!!!

    I spent 5 days in Lugo hospital in all, and they put me in a 2 bed room and found another patient who could speak English to keep me company.

    Every morning, all the bed linen was changed and I had fresh PJ's. This was not just for me but was standard for all patients. The ward and room were spotlessly clean, and the cleaners went around 5/6 times a day cleaning the room and bathroom. There were a lot of staff on duty at all times, and if I rang the bell, a nurse was there within 30 seconds.

    Lugo is not a very large city, but the hospital ( run by the provincial government) was outstandingly good, certainly by UK standards.

    All they asked for was my EC Health Card issued by the UK NHS and that covered the ambulance and hospital costs. I had to do nothing except sign a form confirming my name!

    If you do need the Spanish health system, worry not. You will be in very safe hands!
     
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  2. Gwynasyn

    Gwynasyn New Member

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    I have my own story to add.

    I had finished the Camino, having spent three days in Finisterre. My friend and I had arrived back in Santiago where we were planning to fly out to London in two days. The same night as I arrived I started feeling nauseous. I got no sleep that night, having taken on a fever with violent shivering, vomiting and diarrhea. The next morning my friend stuffed me into a cab and took me to the hospital in Santiago. All the while I was vomitting pure-green bile into a plastic bag, having emptied my stomach of any and all food long before. The first nurse or worker in the hospital to take a look at me sat me in a wheel chair and took me straight to the first doctor that spoke english (our spanish wasn't great). They took one look at me and wheeled me into emergency. By then I was almost thrashing about, I was shivering so hard, and every minute they had to prop me up so I could throw up. For the next half-day I was delirious with a fever and plugged full of anti-biotics.

    After my fever finally broke they took some blood tests, x rays and the like, and wheeled me out of emergency and into observation. I spent the next night and most of the next day there. The tests showed nothing serious, and I still can't remember the name of what it was that I had though I have a sneaking suspicion it was some kind of food poisoning. They kept me a day longer than I probably ahd to, but they wanted to be certain I didn't have a relapse or anything. After the second night they took me to a semi-private room with one other occupant, where I spent the next two nights.

    It was quite scary when I was at my worst, but despite the language barrier they took very good care of me (despite the hatred I came to have for IV units... those things are evil).

    Though one thing I should add, the cost it came to along with the cost of rebooking a new flight out of Santiago was pretty steep. Thankfully I bought full travellers insurance before I left, and it paid for itself and thensome. I advise everyone to bite the bullet and get the best travellers insurance they can buy for just such an occasion. That same trip I went to a French hospital (we started in Conques, along the Le Puy route) as I had developed some pretty bad knee pain. Turns out it was tendonitis, and my travellers insurance covered the bill and medication as well. A pair of fellow Canadians we walked with for a time had one of them hospitalized with a burst appendix. Others went to the hospital after their bed and bag/clothing were infested with bed bugs. I heard a story of a girl being attacked by a wild dog/wolf and hospitalized as a result.

    There are a number of things that can have you in the hospital. Some not so serious, like bed bugs. Some are potentially lethal. So you'd best be covered.
     
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  3. revrenjen

    revrenjen New Member

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    Covey & Gwynasyn
    Thanks for the word about traveler's insurance. I am just about to invest in some for my trip in May/June. Your posts will make the cost more palatable.
     
  4. Covey

    Covey Active Member

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    As I have mentioned elsewhere on the Forum, make sure that your policy covers you for the whole of your trip. Most standard travel policies in the UK cover a maximum trip length of 28-30 days which may not be enough.

    I find it easier to buy an annual travel policy because us Brits are prone to go off to Europe for weekends etc and I sometimes work in EC countries, so I am always covered.

    If you are a resident of an EC country then you should carry your EU Health Card which is issued by your National Health Ministry and which gets you free treatment within the EC. HOWEVER, the EC Health Card does not cover repatriation back home in the event of serious injury, so you would need proper travel insurance as well as your health card.

    My travel insurance company gives me a plastic card with the policy numbers and 24hr contact details so I always have that in my wallet and you should always leave a copy of the policy with your family back home so they can assist if you have a problem.
     
  5. awais

    awais New Member

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    They called an ambulance at 10pm in the evening which arrived in 20 minutes and took me to the clinic (State) in Villafranca where they took one look at me and put me back in the ambulance and sent me to the general hospital in Lugo. I arrived there at around 2am and was immediately seen by two doctors who ran a battery of tests and they said at 4am that I needed a CAT scan.
     
  6. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    I would like to add my own praise for the way I was dealt with by The Spanish Health Services on my last Camino – My own experiences were that I had already walked over 600 miles and was getting an increasing amount of pain from my right knee, in fact to such a point that I was starting to wonder if I was going to have to give up the walk (This wasn’t really an option as the walk was my swansong for raising money for Cancer Research and Drug Development at the Royal Marsden Hospital and was the culmination of 20 years of raising money for them by long distance walking)
    So, I had got as far as Ribadesella where I took myself to the “Ambiatori”, It took about 10 minutes for the reception staff to register me using my European health card (E111), I was then shown to a waiting room and by bottom had barely touched the chair when a young lady doctor ushered me into a consulting room, she examined my knee, I showed her the medication that I was currently taking and a map showing how far I had come and how far I was going and she explained to me in broken English (Which was a Lot better than my own broken Spanish) that as I was already taking the maximum dose of the strongest anti-inflammatory tablets and strong pain killers, that “Walk is Over” – To this I replied that this “Wasn’t an option”, then showing her some papers showing her that this was my 20th walk raising money for Cancer Research, The Longest walk that I had ever attempted and was my “Swansong” so that failure to complete the walk wasn’t on, so she scratched her head and said “What to Do??” – So I suggested Cortisone to which she replied “Mmmm Corisonas” – After a while she pressed a button on her desk and soon afterwards a nurse came in, after a conversation in Spanish the nurse checked my blood pressure, pricked my finger and checked my blood, the doctor listened to my heart and then said – You are fit, so OK, I will give you the Cortisonas but there are no guarantees and after 30 days it is finished, to which I replied that I would be in Santiago in 30 days or not at all. The nurse then disappeared, and came back a few minutes later with the Cortisone and a syringe and needle and told me to drop my pants, this came as a bit of a shock as I had expected the injection in my knee !!?? – So, I dropped my pants and the nurse gave me the injection into my bottom, saying “There will be pain” and she was right !! The Doctor then wrote up a report as well as a prescription for some tablets to settle my stomach should the cortisone or the anti-inflammatory tablets upset it, I asked her was there anything else I should do, she said that I should continue taking the anti-inflammatory tablets that I was already on and that I should buy a knee brace – I then asked how much money I owed her, to which she replied “Nothing” and after wishing me Good Luck, that was it – All done and dusted in less than an hour.
    And Yes – I did manage to reach Santiago de Compostela and I am sure that the wonderful way that I was looked after by Spanish Health Services helped me a lot in achieving my goal – Although I am now paying the price as I wait for the British NHS to make up their minds to whether I now need a new knee !!
    But – The point of this posting is to add my own praise to the way that I was looked after by the Spanish Health Services
    Buen Camino
    Rob
     
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  7. Leslie

    Leslie Administrator

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    And I have a my own story re the health system in Spain.

    While walking I started to get pain in my lower abdomen, the pain got so bad I was almost bent over while walking. The first albergue I came to was staffed by a volunteer medical student. he looked at me and said I needed to go to hospital. An ambulance came and whisked me off - strange being in a vehicle after walking for a couple of week.

    I waited about 15 minutes at the hospital before being examined. They discovered a couple of hernias, nothing they could do apart from give me pain killers which kicked in after a while.

    Then taxi back to where I stopped and I walked another two weeks to Santiago.

    I remember thinking - pain reminds me I am alive...

    And if anyone is interested I just updated the page on medical issues and the health system yesterday - http://www.caminoadventures.com/what-about-medical-help/
     
  8. B.McKone

    B.McKone New Member

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    I walked the Camino in 2013. I started in France. Had some issues with blisters the first week but took special care of them and kept going on my way. I ended one day in Sahagun. I woke up through the night with a nagging pain in my chest and left arm. I was 52 at the time and heart attack came to mind. In the morning, I asked directions to the nearest hospital. I entered and sat to wait. Within minutes someone was coming with a little kit and I knew instantly they thought I was there for blisters. I told her no , I was concerned about my heart ( I did know how to say heart in Spanish) The doctor came out right away. She examined me and did an EKG. She gave me the good news that everything was normal and said I probably had pulled muscles from carrying my pack. She gave me a prescription for painkillers and told me to rest for a few days. I gave her my insurance information. I walked out , took some ibuprofen and found the yellow arrows leading out of town and kept on walking. I was just so happy that that is all it was. I got excellent care and they never even filed a claim.
     
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  9. BROWNCOUNTYBOB

    BROWNCOUNTYBOB Well-Known Member

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    Well, my story is something that happened recently and is a flashback to our second camino in 2017. We were walking the camino with my brother and his wife (both medical doctors). We spent the night in San Martin del Camino and were hiking to Astorga the following day. As I was getting ready to sleep, I noticed that my upper lip started swelling unexpectedly. I am not allergic to any meds or foods, so was puzzled about this. I woke up in the morning and the swelling was still present, but as we hiked towards Astorga, the swelling in my upper lip decreased, then my lower lip became swollen. When we arrived in Astorga, I went to a pharmacy and the kind pharmacist said it was likely a food allergy and gave me antihistamines. That did the trick and by the end of the day, there was no more swelling.

    Fast forward to two weeks ago. I was making dinner on the grill and once again, my upper lip began swelling. I took a Benedryl, then went to bed early. I got up in the middle of the night, my upper lip was still swollen so I took another Benedryl. I had an appointment with my periodontist that morning to have my teeth cleaned. As the hygenist was cleaning my teeth, she said she could tell that the swelling was expanding to my lower lip. She went down the hall and mentioned to the periodontist. A few minutes later she said the swelling was expanding to both cheeks. The periodontist came into the room and said I needed to go to the emergency room immediately. Long story short, when I arrived at the ER, my blood pressure was 211 and they immediately whisked me into a room, hooked me up to an IV and checked my vitals. After two hours, the swelling had not reduced, so I was admitted to the hospital for observation overnight. I received several meds throughout the night. Next morning, the swelling had mostly reduced. The doctor diagnosed "angioedema". This was an allergic reaction to an ace inhibitor prescription (for high blood pressure) which I had taken for 20 years! The cause for alarm is that it was possible that the swelling could have progressed to my tongue and breathing airway or could have proceeded to heart problems or shock. I was fine the following day, then realized that the prior event in Rabanal / Astorga was the same thing. And of course, my doctor switched meds to a non-Ace Inhibitor.

    A lesson to all pilgrims is anything can happen on the camino - keep the emergency numbers handy and learn where the pharmacies are located in each town. Glad this is behind me now as we prepare for our third camino in September.

    Bob
     
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