By DAISY SAMPSON [email protected]
When it comes to healthcare and the rights of foreign citizens to essential services, changes in the laws and confusion within the sector have left many foreign residents unsure what they are entitled to, either in the way of emergency medical care and planned medical treatment in other European countries.
These issues were on the agenda at a seminar on July 29 at the Centro de Congressos do Arade, arranged by the HPP Saúde hospital management group, when a panel of experts discussed the healthcare rights of EU citizens.
Every citizen is able to receive emergency treatment within the EU but planned operations are also able to be taken outside your home country, often without payment needing to be made by the individual.
Lawyer Dr Eduardo Serra Jorge spoke to the assembled guests about the rights of citizen to planned treatments.
He said: “Every EU citizen is entitled to healthcare and treatments. However, at the moment, legislation to standardise planned treatments is not in place so every case has to be assessed on an individual basis.”
He added: “Citizens who hold the S2 form, previously the E112, are able to receive planned treatments in other countries but it must first be authorised with your doctor and, although it can be paid for by your own national health service, there are many different criteria that come into play.
“I would advise patients looking for treatments abroad to always check with the hospital they are going to, about what they will personally have to pay, to avoid any nasty surprises.”
While the situation regarding planned healthcare rights to EU citizens within Europe remains difficult to apply on a general level, the basic situation in Portugal is quite simple, as Doctor Fernando Moura, the international medical advisor for HPP Hospitals in the Algarve, explained.
“We often say ‘when you have three doctors you will have four opinions’ but, in reality, the case in Portugal is easy. Either you are a visitor to the country and you therefore use a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for essential and emergency treatment or you are resident here and you register with the local Centro de Saúde and receive your Cartão de Utente.”
Dr Fernando Moura added: “For the past 25 years, we have seen medical services in the Algarve improve constantly. We used to have a situation where people would relocate to the Algarve but, as they grew older, they returned to their countries of origin because the medical facilities here were not good enough – but that has changed now.”
Michael Reeve, CEO of afpop, Portugal’s largest foreign residents association, said: “Healthcare information can be a minefield and even we at afpop, who have staff trained to locate such information, find that we can struggle to come up with clear answers.
“Nobody plans to be ill and so questions regarding emergency healthcare rights need to be asked before something happens to make sure that you are clear of your entitlement. The aim of afpop in working with HPP Saúde is to be able to get a clear message about healthcare across to the wider foreign community.”
As facilities in the region improve and more private hospitals, such as those run by HPP Saúde, increase in the region, so too does the possibility of taking advantage of these facilities to promote the Algarve as a medical tourism destination, particularly in conjunction with the S2 form holders.
Nuno Aires, president of the Algarve Tourism Board (ERTA), said: “Health tourism is very important to us and we are working with both the public and private sectors to be able to promote and expand international health tourism to the Algarve.
“Confidence and trust are the two key factors when it comes to health tourism and we have a huge opportunity here to be able to offer not only spa and wellness holidays but also medical tourists to the region.”
For further information about the European Health Card and the S2 form, please visit www.nhs.uk (available in English).
HPP Saúde hospitals in the Algarve are located in Lagos and Faro. For more information, please visit www.hppsaude.pt (available in English).
For more information about afpop, please visit www.afpop.com or call 282 458 509.