As long as you have a Social Security card in your pocket (see our section on Registration) then you are able to be admitted to any public hospital (all of them have emergency rooms).
Even if you don´t have one of these cards yet, you will still be seen, although you may find yourself footing the bill later (not all of it though, as the Spanish government will cover sixty per cent of the cost even for illegal immigrants).
Public hospitals are generally considered to be better equipped than some private clinics. Here you can find the latest medical equipment and very highly qualified staff. As in other countries, the problem is that the public hospitals are struggling to cope with the demands made on their resources. The waiting lists for non-emergency operations are so long that many people end up going to a private clinic (part of the expenses of which will be covered by a private health insurance).
If you have a medical situation that requires a planned hospital visit, stay or procedure, your doctor will give you a form or paperwork stating so. Once you have this official paperwork from your doctor, you will have to go to the admissions or Admisiones area to formally check-in or ingresar.
At the time of check in, you will be asked to provide official identification (DNI card) or passport, for example, as well as your public health (CAP) card or insurance card. The hospital will probably ask you to fill out some paperwork (all in Spanish) so if you need help with filling out the paperwork, you should inform them that you only speak English. Most often, there will be someone on hand who has at least a basic grasp of English and will be able to help you sort out your paperwork.
Depending on the hospital (private/public) and the procedure or stay, you may be asked to provide a specific deposit towards your stay (as is the case with most births in private hospitals) which you can do with a credit card. Again, depending on the procedure or stay, you may have to call your insurance company in advance to notify them that you will be undergoing a stay, and they will usually contact the hospital via fax or email to notify them that you are approved for the visit. Then, admissions will simply run your insurance card through and have you sign out upon your departure. If it is not a procedure fully covered by your insurance, you will have to pay your part and again, payment by credit card is acceptable.
For emergencies the public hospitals are the place to go. “Urgencias” (Accident and Emergency Departments) are open 24 hours a day 365 days of the year and must attend to everyone. In recent years many Spaniards have seen these departments as a way to get ahead on the waiting list for operations and this has made for overcrowding and waits of several hours before being seen by a doctor. Sundays are particularly busy, especially in the paediatrics section. Unless it is absolutely necessary to go during the day it is preferable to take a child early (before 10.30) or last thing at night.
As a non-spanish speaker, you can ask for an English-speaking doctor (using the words ´yo hablo solo ingles´will do the trick) or an interpreter. Spanish medical staff can seem terse but they are very kind and skilled, so don´t let cultural misinterpretation sour your experience.
As said, all public hospitals have emergency departments. They are listed below:
- Ciutat Sanitaria Vall D´Hebron
Pg. Vall D´Hebron, s/n
08035 tel. 93. 427 20 00
- Hospital Clinic i Provincial de Barcelona
C/ Valencia, 184
Tel. 93. 451 78 62
- Hospital de Sant Joan de Deu Children’s Hospital
Av. Espluges s/n
Tel. 93. 280 40 00
- Hospital General de Catalunya
Sant Cugat del Vallés
Tel. 93. 565 60 00
- Hospital de Mataró
Carretera de Cirera, s/n
08304 Mataró (Ausfahrt Mataró Nord A19)
tel. 93. 741 77 00