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FAQ: Health care treatment in Slovakia

The Slovak Spectator brings you the set of the most frequently asked questions with regard to health care treatment.

Illustrative stock photo(Source: SME)

This set of most frequently asked questions regarding Health care is regularly updated. Last update: September 29, 2017

Do you have more questions about residence in Slovakia? Please let us know at spectator@spectator.sk.

HEALTH INSURANCE:
Q: I am working and living in Slovakia. Do I have to pay health insurance here or in my home country?
Q: I am an international student. How is my health care covered?
Q: What should I do when I want to change my health insurer?

GOING TO THE DOCTOR:
Q: Do I have to be registered with one concrete general practitioner?
Q: How do I find an English-speaking general practitioner or dentist?
Q: What should I do when I want to change my doctor?
Q: Is health care for free? Are there any fees when I go to the doctor?
Q: What medical check-ups am I entitled to from my health insurance?
Q: What happens if I fail to get my annual check-up with the dentist?
Q: I want to visit a specialist. What do I need to do?
Q: Where can I report mistreatment or law violations?

CARE FOR CHILDREN:
Q: How do I choose a paediatrician?
Q: How often does a child undergo preventive medical check-ups?
Q: Do I have to vaccinate my child?
Q: When should I take my child to the dentist?

EMERGENCY SITUATIONS:
Q: What is the difference between the phone numbers 112 (emergency calls) and 155 (special number for ambulances)?
Q: Do the phone operators speak English?
Q: When should I call the ambulance?
Q: How long does it take until the ambulance comes?
Q: How much do I pay for the ambulance?
Q: Can I be punished for calling the ambulance even if it is not necessary?

HOSPITAL STAYS:
Q: What should I do when I have a health-related emergency?
Q: Do I need to wait for surgery?
Q: Do I pay for staying in the hospital?

HEALTH INSURANCE

Q: I am working and living in Slovakia. Do I have to pay health insurance here or in my home country?
A:
Citizens of countries which are members of the European Union can be insured only in one country. This is either the country where they work, receive a pension or have permanent residency, according to the respective laws.

The law stipulates that nationals of non-EU countries fall only under the Slovak legislation, which means that they need to be insured by one of the three Slovak health insurers: state-run Všeobecná Zdravotná Poisťovňa (VšZP) or private insurers Dôvera or Union zdravotná poisťovňa. There are, however, some exceptions, for example if foreigners have permanent residency in Slovakia, but work abroad or live abroad for more than six months. Also foreigners who do not have permanent residency in Slovakia can be insured, but only if they:
-have the status of refugee and were granted asylum;
-are international students;
-are minors who are in Slovakia without their legal representatives;
-are foreigners detained in Slovakia;
-are in prison in Slovakia;
-are dependents.

Foreigners are obliged to bring their application to the health insurer within eight days after their arrival. If they are granted Slovak insurance, the insurance in their home country is cancelled. Non-EU citizens need to bring with them also the permission to stay in Slovakia issued by the Foreigners' Police.

Union publishes more information about health insurance in Slovakia in English at its website, where people can find also more information about health care providers or can download the insurance claim form. Also VšZP publishes more detailed information about insurance in English.

Q: I am an international student. How is my health care covered?
A:
Students coming from EU member states do not need to change their insurer, if they are not economically active in Slovakia. They do, however, need to have a European Health Insurance Card issued by the insurer in their home country, according to VšZP.

All international students who come to Slovakia need to submit an application to the health insurer to be granted public health insurance within eight days after their arrival if they want to be insured by Dôvera. They need to bring a confirmation about receiving the scholarship and copy of permission to stay in Slovakia. In case of foreign Slovaks who study at Slovak schools, the applicants for Dôvera need to bring the confirmation of attending the school and a copy of the card confirming their status as foreign Slovaks. In Union, the applicants need to bring the confirmation of attending the school and a document confirming that they study here based on an international agreement signed between Slovakia and their home country.

Q: What should I do when I want to change my health insurer?
A:
If a foreigner wants to change their health insurer as of January 1, they need to submit an application to the new insurer until September 30 at the latest.

GOING TO THE DOCTOR

Q: Do I have to be registered with one concrete general practitioner?
A:
The law does not order patients to be registered with general practitioners. The problem, however, is that without the general practitioner the patients are entitled only to emergency medical treatment. Foreigners also have to prepare for long waiting lines. It is usually a problem to arrange an appointment at short notice, especially in state hospitals.

Q: How do I find an English-speaking general practitioner or dentist?
A:
The VšZP can recommend some doctors, but they do not know much about their language knowledge. The insurer recommends checking the websites of doctors to see whether they do publish the languages they can speak. Dôvera has a list of their contractual doctors published on their website (Slovak only), but the insurer also does not have information about their language skills. Also Union publishes the list of its contractual doctors (Slovak only). As for their language skills, it recommends contacting their helpline (+421 (0)850 003 333).

When choosing a doctor, it is necessary to realise that in Slovak hospitals most doctors speak only Slovak, so be prepared for taking someone who speaks Slovak. Another option is to find a doctor at a private medical facility. This is the case of both adult doctors and paediatricians.

Some doctors recommended by foreigners:

Tibor Hrbatý – general practitioner. He is not taking new patients, but one-time visits are possible.

Eva Pichňová Tomášová – general practitioner

Marián Kostelný – general practitioner

Erika Kožáková – general practitioner

Elena Prokopová – paediatrician

Milan Profant – otorhinolaryngologist

Pulmonologists – www.pneumoalergo.sk

Dentists – www.smileclinic.sk, www.alfadent.sk

Some doctors speaking German and English can be found at: www.pressburg.diplo.de

Q: What should I do when I want to change my doctor?
A:
For changing the general practitioner and paediatrician, it is necessary to have an agreement with the new doctor. The patients also have to notify the previous doctors in writing that they wish to terminate the agreement (they can deliver the letters in person or by mail). The previous doctor should then send the patient’s medical records to the new doctor within seven days.

In case of dentists, the patients need confirmation from their previous doctors that they were removed from the register and also information about their last check-up. The previous dentist then sends the records to the new address.

Q: Is health care for free? Are there any fees when I go to the doctor?
A:
Most of the medical treatment is covered by public health insurance. The doctors usually publish the list of fees they can claim during the patients’ visit in the waiting rooms. The patients should not pay for scheduling a medical examination for a specific time as these payments were abolished by the law in 2015.

Q: What medical check-ups am I entitled to from my health insurance?
A:
Everybody older than 18 years of age should visit a general practitioner once every two years, while blood donors should undergo a preventive check-up once a year. Both men and women should go for a preventive check-up at the dentist once a year, while pregnant women are entitled to two check-ups a year. Women should also undergo a medical check-up at their gynaecologist once a year.

All three health insurers also offer a service within which they can send their clients a text message or email reminding them of an upcoming medical check-up.

Q: What happens if I fail to get my annual check-up with the dentist?
A:
In case of failing to get a preventive check at the dentist, patients are required to pay the full price of treatment the following year.

Q: I want to visit a specialist. What do I need to do?
A:
People who want to visit a specialist need to have so-called “výmenný lístok”, a note from their general practitioner. These notes should help the specialists learn more about the current health condition of the patients, as well as what medical treatments they have undergone and what medicaments they take. The general practitioners also provide information about supposed diagnoses and the aim of the specialist’s examination.

Patients do not need “výmenný lístok” if:
-they go to an examination at a psychiatrist, a dermatologist venereologist, dentist, gynaecologist, and ophthalmologist;
-they undergo further examinations at specialists;
-the patients have a certain disease which requires regular supervision;
-they undergo outpatient treatment.

Q: Where can I report mistreatment or law violations?
A:
Patients who are dissatisfied with the medical treatment can turn to the Health Care Surveillance Authority. They need to submit a written application, where they state their name and address, the name of health facility or doctor and their residency, the period in which they received the treatment and also a description of the problem. The applications need to be signed. Some forms can be found directly at the authority’s website.

Patients complaining about fees for health treatment or the office hours should turn to the regional authority or the Health Ministry. Those dissatisfied with the behaviour of the health employees should report to the management of the medical facility, the respective chambers, the regional authorities or the Health Ministry.

CARE FOR CHILDREN

Q: How do I choose a paediatrician?
A:
It is recommended to look for a doctor for your children even before they are born. It usually works in a way that children go to the doctor based on the street they live in. Parents can also choose the doctor on their own but they cannot be sure this doctor will accept the child. The children’s doctors then notify the parents about check-ups.

Q: How often does a child undergo preventive medical check-ups?
A:
Doctors start caring for babies 48 hours after they leave the maternity hospitals. During the first year they undergo nine check-ups and the 10th after they are 1.5 years old. Children should then visit the paediatrician once every two years until they are 18.

Q: Do I have to vaccinate my child?
A:
Vaccination in Slovakia is mandatory. Currently, children have to be vaccinated against 10 diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (or whooping cough), polio, hepatitis B, invasive Haemophilus influenzae infections, invasive pneumococcal diseases, measles, mumps and rubella. Parents who refuse the vaccination of their children can be fined up to €331.

Q: When should I take my child to the dentist?
A:
Babies should visit the dentist for the first time after they are 1 year old. Then they should visit the dentists twice a year until they are 18.

EMERGENCY SITUATIONS

Q: What is the difference between the phone numbers 112 (emergency calls) and 155 (special number for ambulances)?
A:
The phone number 112 is used to call the rescuers within the integrated rescue system. The call is free of charge and it is possible to call it 24/7, and even from a phone without a SIM card. Its advantage is that it is possible to localise the caller.

Q: Do the phone operators speak English?
A:
Every operator should speak at least one foreign language, the Interior Ministry claims.

Q: When should I call the ambulance?
A:
As in other countries, the ambulance is called only if the health condition of patients suddenly changes or their lives are in danger.

Q: How long does it take until the ambulance comes?
A:
The average time is 11 minutes.

Q: How much do I pay for the ambulance?
A:
EU citizens with valid insurance cards do not pay for calling the ambulance. Citizens of countries outside the EU without Slovak health insurance card need to pay €120 for treatment and transport. Moreover, patients who do not have to be urgently taken to the hospital pay €0.07 per kilometre for transport in an ambulance.

Q: Can I be punished for calling the ambulance even if it is not necessary?
A:
The phone operators should decide whether it is necessary to send the ambulance to the patient. Some cases end only with consultation or the phone operator recommending the patients to visit the general practitioner. In case the callers deliberately block the phone number, the fine may be as high as €1,659.

HOSPITAL STAYS

Q: What should I do when I have a health-related emergency?
A:
Usually, there are emergency rooms in hospitals. The fee for treatment is €1.99. Only the patients who are hospitalised immediately after visiting the emergency room do not have to pay it.

Q: Do I need to wait for surgery?
A:
Currently, several medical facilities, including state hospitals, have departments for one-day surgeries (where people are hospitalised for less than 24 hours) for simpler interventions, like orthopaedic, aesthetic and plastic, and urological surgeries. However, people need to wait for some surgeries, especially the planned ones. The longest waiting lists are for replacement of knee and hip joints, cataract surgeries, and various cardiovascular-linked, according to an analysis of the Health Policy Institute. The waiting lists can be found at the websites of the health insurers:
-Všeobecná Zdravotná Poisťovňa (Slovak only)
-Union zdravotná poisťovňa (Slovak only)
-Dôvera (Slovak only)

Q: Do I pay for staying in the hospital?
A:
Hospitalised patients should not pay for their stay in the hospital. If parents (or other legal representatives) want to stay in the hospital with a patient, the fee is €3.32 per day.

This section is sponsored by Union zdravotná poisťovňa (health insurance company), which offers health insurance for foreigners.

Source: VšZP, Dôvera, Union zdravotná poisťovňa, the Interior Ministry, the rescue service

Topic: Foreigners in Slovakia


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