I have joined the private health system.
If you are a regular here you might remember that about a year ago I hurt my hand in the van door. I won’t make you revisit the details of what happened in the underground car park – I still can’t bear to think of it.
It was agony for a few weeks and then gradually healed up but there was always a strange sensation around the wound and even when it stopped hurting I wouldn’t say it was back to normal.
Then about 8 months ago a lump appeared over the finger joint and this has got bigger and more painful as time went on.
Ok, that’s the background and I only tell you the details as an introduction to my experience of health care here in Catalunya.
According to leaflets found in the health centres, every person resident here is entitled to a health card which provides free services at doctors and hospitals and reduced price drugs.
However….although I have been here three years and am empadronated in Granollers (it’s a list of people who officially live in an area) and come from an EU country, I have never been able to get a health card, the Tarjeta Sanitaria or CAP card.
Everyone in my Catalan class – from Africa, from Morocco, from other parts of Spain – have CAP cards. My friends from Germany and Australia have CAP cards. But I can’t get one.
Different officials give different reasons for this but in the end it comes down to the fact that I am from the UK. If I get a form from the National Insurance in Newcastle saying that I receive no benefits from the social security system then I can apply for a card. But this would mean that I had opted out of the Health Service in the UK and as I return home every year and always go to visit my doctor there, and up to recently was being monitored for kidney stones, I don’t want to opt out. I want to go here when I am in Catalunya and there when I am in the UK. I can’t really see the problem.
This is why I didn’t do anything when I damaged my hand last year. I waited for it to get better. Which it did. Then it got worse again and I found myself here without a doctor to turn to.
We went to the Urgency doctor in the local surgery. After waiting for almost an hour in a very dirty waiting room I saw a doctor who took a quick look and pronounced that I had a lump on my finger and that she couldn’t send me to a specialist as I was only receiving urgent treatment.
I then looked into private health care. Most of the arrangements cost about 200 euros per month.
A friend of a friend very kindly took a look at the finger and thought it might be infected and needed looking at by a doctor.
Finally someone pointed me in the direction of La Mútua – which as its name suggests offers various levels of membership of a mutual organisation providing health care. Anyone here with a bit of money seems to be a member. I used to be surprised when friends said casually they were off to see a gynaecologist but now I understand how easy it is here. For 30 euros a month I can go and see a specialist almost immediately. I pay each time for a visit or a treatment but it is at a much reduced rate. The other option was to pay more each month, be a full member and have everything included.
The building of the Mútua towers over a central square in Granollers and inside there is an impressive list of specialities. I was shocked to see how many I could imagine using – ginecologia, urologia, pneumologia, even perhaps in the near future, geriatria!
Today was my first visit. I saw Dr Toro who I chose for his name. He works in traumatologia and he speaks English. He sent me off to book in for an x-ray and an ultrasound. Because of Easter I can’t go next week but the week after I should be several steps closer to sorting out my lump!
This is not an advertisement for the Mútua – I’ll let you know how it goes and what I think of it after I’ve had the treatment. But it is interesting that here so many people are in private health schemes and accept it as completely normal.