Update 26 February: Around 100 people turned up last evening for the info session given by the Tenerife consulate team, Clio O’Flynn from Adeje Ayuntamiento, and the Healthcare adviser from the FCO. Apart from explaining about the consular structure and functions, topics covered included voting in the forthcoming UK election, registering on the padron, and the new driving licence legislation.
Two topics in particular, however, were of great interest to the audience, and both concerned healthcare. Clearly everyone needs to ensure that they have the correct healthcare cover for their particular circumstances, and to be registered for cover in either the UK or Spain, or to have private medical insurance. What has been a source of confusion and anger, however, is the system in Hospiten Sur (the Green Hospital) for patients with a UK EHIC. There are stories galore of the hospital – the only “hospital” with an emergency centre in the south – refusing to accept this card, despite a Spanish and EU-wide reciprocal system for the EHIC.
Helen Keating, Vice Consul and head of the consulate in Tenerife, said that only yesterday morning she and the FCO healthcare official from Madrid had had a meeting with top management in Hospiten Sur. The situation is that the hospital is a private one, but it has an agreement with the Canarian Health Service to treat emergencies in south Tenerife as part of the state system because there is no other hospital A&E facility in the area. Anyone who needs treatment beyond primary emergency care will be transferred on to Candelaria. As part of this system, anyone who attends the Green Hospital as an emergency, whether taken by ambulance or turning up by themselves, will be treated with an EHIC – but only under two conditions. First that the case is an emergency – as medically defined – and secondly, that the patient has no private medical or holiday travel insurance.
The hospital was quite clear that since it is a private institution, insurance will be taken if it exists even if the patient has an EHIC. The FCO healthcare official said that technically, under EU regulations, patients had a right to choose whether to use their insurance or EHIC, but as everyone agreed, it is perhaps not the best time to start having an argument about means of funding when presenting as an emergency patient. It is also important to note, as Helen Keating said, that any UK EHIC holders (i.e. UK residents who are visitors to Spain or Spanish-resident pensioners whose medical cover is via the UK) who found that their medical or holiday insurance company refused to confirm cover for some reason. would not be able to bring in their EHIC as a backup at that point. The EHIC has to be used from the outset, or not at all, and so anyone starting out with insurance cover could end up with a large bill should the insurance company refuse to pay up. The only people with no such problem, therefore, are those who have a genuine medical emergency and an EHIC but no other insurance of any sort.
The other matter that was of interest to people was the Convenio Especial, a pay-in scheme by which those without health cover of any other sort can buy state insurance. This was previously only available in Valencia but is now running here too. The scheme is being run by the Spanish government, and costs those of working age (i.e pre-state pension age) €60 a month. The system does not, however, provide any rights to subsidised prescriptions, nor to an EHIC, so is neither a cheap nor useful alternative to getting proper healthcare and medical cover in other ways if at all possible. It is also only available to those who are legal residents of over a year’s standing (on a local authority padron as well as a Registro) so is not available for newcomers.
All in all, the attendance and the length of the meeting – it was at least half as long again, I think, as might have been expected – will have shown the consulate team how valued it was, and people clearly expressed their appreciation at the end.
Update 24 February: Just a reminder of this information session tomorrow evening in Los Cristianos. See you there.
Original post 12 February: The British Consulate will be holding an information session on Wednesday 25 February at 6.30pm in Los Cristianos’ Auditorio Infanta Leonorto inform British residents here about the benefits of registering with their local ayuntamientos on the padron, and for healthcare and other public services. The Healthcare Team will also provide information about the new “convenio especial”, a special pay-in public health insurance scheme in the Canary Islands for those not otherwise covered for state-run healthcare, such as early retirees. They will also explain how to register for healthcare in general and how to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you are a worker or a pensioner. Admission is free and there is no need to register in advance.