Health Tips When Moving to Belgium

 

 

Health insurance is mandatory in Belgium, and its population of 11, 176, 382 people are expected to obtain it. As part of the process of national social security enrollment, the employed as well as self-employed must contribute to a health insurance fund (mutualité/ziekenfonds). You can seek information about various fund options available from your employers, friends and colleagues. All funds charge the same basic contribution (7.35%), pay similar benefits and provide automatic cover for dependent family (including a spouse who does not have cover and children up to 18 years of age); the only difference being the period for reimbursement. Employers provide supplementary health cover in the form of an employee benefit.

 

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Hospitals & Clinics

The Yellow Pages will provide you with a list of hospitals and clinics. However, the best way of finding a reliable medical facility is through friends and colleagues who will be able to give you an idea about the functioning of the hospital and its emergency unit. There are two kinds of hospitals in the country, with one hospital (hôpital or ziekenhuis) having its staff on duty 24 hours a day. The staff here is in charge of a patient's treatment, and it is unlikely that your own General Practitioner will oversee your treatment. The other type of hospital is a private hospital known as a clinic (clinique/kliniek) where your General Practitioner is in charge of your treatment while the staff are caregivers. Most doctors are associated with at least one or two clinics and should you need hospitalisation; you may be given a choice of a hospital.

Irrespective of the type of hospital you choose, always carry a passport or your Belgian identification card with you. Your SIS (Système d'Information Sociale) card is necessary if you are undergoing treatment under the public health system. However, if you subscribe to a private health insurance scheme then carry your receipt as proof of insurance. Remember to check which insurance plans are accepted at the hospital before you are admitted.

Medicines & Pharmacies

Whether you need medication for cough, cold, headache, contact lens solution or a prescription drug, the only place you are likely to find all this is a chemist or pharmacist (pharmacy/apotheek). Chemists in Belgium are identified by a large green cross that very often is illuminated. Most pharmacists speak at least some English so you will be able to get your message across. The sale of medicines is highly regulated within the country. The pharmacist is even more responsible for the patients' well-being than a doctor and can be held responsible if a patient feels worse after consuming medication dispensed by him even if prescribed by a doctor.

Chemists sell both prescription and non-prescription medicines in their original packaging and write instructions for use on the boxes. It is best to retain the packages as it makes getting fresh supplies simpler. Most pharmacies are open Monday-Friday, and there will be at least one pharmacy in an area which will be open on holiday. Credit cards are accepted but not everywhere.

Doctors

Doctors in Belgium are well trained and keep abreast of the latest developments. However, they are not open to discussing treatment with a patient, and it would be best to find a general practitioner with whom you can talk to about your health concerns. Doctors advertise in the Yellow Pages, but the best way of finding one is by asking your friends, family and colleagues. Many of them speak English so you don't have to worry on that account. You will have to pay your doctor directly and in cash or by cheque. Doctors make house calls and will be happy to direct you to the nearest chemist and facility should you need an x-ray or test.

General Practitioners are the best people to refer you to a specialist should you need one. Some well-trained dentists practice in Belgium, and you have to pay them directly. Proposals for major dental treatment, however, must be submitted by the dentist to your health insurance company or National Health Service before the work is done.

Emergency Services

In case of an emergency, call an ambulance, and it will take you to the emergency department of the nearest hospital. If you are in Brussels, call the Red Cross Ambulance Service to go to the hospital of your choice. All operators on emergency numbers speak English. However remember to speak clearly and slowly. In case you suffer from a serious medical condition keep a file with your medical records and prescriptions handy at all times.

Emergency Contact Numbers

Fire & Ambulance: 100

Red Cross Ambulance: 105

European emergency number: 112

Community Help Service (English): +32 (0)2 648 40 14