After almost a three-hour-long wait, Erasmus student Emila Lampi takes out her food… lucky she had it with her. Who would have thought going to the doctor’s would be such an adventure? She had already tried getting help from three different practices on opposite sides of Zagreb so it all turned out to be an exploration.
Fortunately, the long wait was the only problem Emilia had to face because foreigners from the EU or Switzerland are entitled to the same treatment as Croatians. All you need is the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Emilia explains that in Finland, where she’s from, the concept of health insurance is similar – with the EHIC they can receive treatment no matter which country they are in.
“And because I also have travel insurance, any costs will be covered, so I normally would head to a private doctor because I get in a lot faster and in many countries, the service is better.” However, in Croatia, she decided to seek treatment from public doctors since there is no private general medicine here, unlike in Finland.
JUST WAIT A LITTLE BIT MORE…
“Finding the place I needed to go was really confusing. I was asking people where to go but I was sent to different places each time”, she recalls coming to the hospital for the first time. “I finally found the place and they told me that I had to wait for an hour but I actually ended up waiting for three hours.”
Apart from the long wait, Emilia is critical of the bad organization of Croatian public institutions. Before she managed to get to a doctor who actually treated her, she had gone to see a few who didn’t know if they are allowed to.
“When I finally saw the doctor, she told me that she wouldn’t prescribe me any medicine and that she would send me to another hospital which was basically on the other side of the city,” explains Emilia and adds that after demanding it persistently, she finally got the antibiotics she needed.
WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE EHIC?
Without an EHIC, you’ll have to pay for full expenses of your treatment, including the medicine. Fortunately, the official website of Croatian Health Insurance Fund (CHIF) lists all the instructions, including all needed documents and contact information, for obtaining yours.
If you come from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro or Turkey, it is crucial to have written confirmation on longterm or hospital treatment from your homeland. If you hadn’t done so, you can ask for its subsequent issuing in designated CHIF office to avoid paying any potential extra expenses. Unfortunatly, if you’re from any country that hasn’t been mentioned, all expenses are yours to pay!
THE OTHER POSSIBILITY: THE EMERGENY ROOM
In case of a medical emergency where your life might be endangered, you can go to the nearest emergency room. This could also be your option when your general practitioner (GP) isn’t working if it happens to be the weekend or a public holiday. All you need to have with you is some identification document.
“Students from EU countries must have EHIC, it covers all emergency interventions. Otherwise, they’ll have to finance the treatment on their own. All those who aren’t from member countries have to have travel insurance”, explains Silvija Hunyadi-Antičević, director of Teaching Institute for Emergency Medicine in Zagreb.
STUDENT GPs ARE THERE TO PREVENT, NOT TREAT
At first, Emilia thought she had to go to a student doctor. “Both in Finland and Portugal, where I did a student exchange, they have separate health care for students, a place where students can apply.”
Tatjana Petričević Vidović, head of the Department of School and Adolescent Medicine, explains that they are mainly focused on preventive healthcare. “Every faculty has a designated medical team consisting of a doctor that specialises in school medicine and a nurse. In student ambulances, students can sign up for general physical examination and examinations needed for being place in student halls.” You can find such doctors, their address and contact information on Student Centre Zagreb’s official website.
“There is also a consultation centre for problems with studying, nutrition and reproductive health where girls can have a gynaecological examination”, says Petričević Vidović. It’s also worth mentioning that even though student doctors don’t treat patients themselves, they are able to prescribe private medicine prescription which is charged at pharmacies.
Emilia’s experience confirms that foreign students often have problems when dealing with Croatian institutions. Since there is no general health care for students, Emilia claims that without insurance company’s help everything would be that much harder.
“There is an emergency room in Portugal open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and I think it will be really helpful here in Zagreb. On the other hand, I was expecting some random payments or fees here but gladly there was none”, says Emilia.