Around France

A Look Inside a French Emergency Room

Going along with my friend to a French emergency room in the small town of Bagnol was a learning experience I needed.

First Visit to a French Emergency Room

One of my dear friends, Sue, fell backward off a 2-foot garden wall while trimming a tree. She had to be rushed to the hospital. She was pretty upset and, not knowing what to expect, called to ask me to accompany her. I thought it was a good idea for both of us. I could help keep her calm and, at the same time, check out the experience …  just in case something ever happened to me.

It’s been one of my only fears living in a country where I don’t speak the language.  “What if there is an emergency?” 

Now I know the first thing to do is to dial “15” for an emergency. In less than 10 minutes, an ambulance with three attendants was at Sue’s house in Uzès. Sue is English, and she speaks French very well. However, she was so rattled that getting her thoughts out in French was difficult. Fortunately, one of the attendants knew a bit of English. Also, a neighbor who spoke English and French stopped by her house to help.

After the ambulance helpers assessed Sue’s immediate condition, they transported her to the nearest hospital — about 20 minutes away in Bagnol. French law forbids anyone from riding with a patient, so I rode with Robin, Sue’s husband, in their car. We followed the ambulance as closely as possible to the emergency entrance to the hospital.

Emergency Unit Hospital in Bagnol France

Entrance to Emergency Unit at the hospital in Bagnol


The waiting room at the hospital was similar to any I’ve seen in the US. That’s where Sue’s husband and I spent the next four hours. Sue went alone to register, to see the doctor, to be X-rayed, and to see the doctor after the X-ray for a diagnosis.

Robin and I entertained ourselves during the waiting time, watching other patients come in and out — none with traumatic injuries. We read, or tried to read, the various brochures and bulletins on shelves and walls in the area — all written in French, of course.

Most interesting was a list of emergency service costs.

So that you can better understand the costs, there are a few things to know:

  • 1 euro = $US 1.11
  • For the French and others with EU health insurance, emergency treatment costs are reimbursable
  • Emergency treatment costs are higher than similar non-emergency services

French hospital emergeny room

Even for those who may not know French, it’s pretty easy to figure out the services offered and the costs. (Example 1 above)

Consultation – 23 euros (US$25.53)

ECG (Electrocardiogram) –  13.52 euros (US$15)

AMI (Emergency 5 level) – 15.75 euros (US$17.48)

Total cost   = 52.27 euros (US$58.02)

While we hoped that Sue would come out of the emergency room with good news, it wasn’t so great– a fractured shoulder. The ray of sunshine was that her accident could have been worse — she doesn’t have a hefty hospital bill –and the experience wasn’t so scary after all.

Feel better soon, my friend. 

Sue and Robin enjoying a happy day in Uzes

Sue and Robin enjoying a happy day in Uzes


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12 replies »

  1. We tend not to think about such costs in the UK, as our NHS is free at the point of service. it was a good system when it was introduced, soon after WWII, but it attracts a lot of ‘Health Tourism’ these days. Despite billions pumped into the NHS every year, by the UK Government, there never seems to be enough money. Perhaps the French system is the better solution…?

    Get well soon Sue.

    • Not sure how the French keep costs so low, and I’ve heard the care is superior to Uk as per those who experience both. Hopefully Sue will be seeing happier days soon!

  2. Thanks for the numbers. I’ve always wanted to know what the services cost to compare them to American charges. My husband and I and another couple will be in Uzes Satuday night, staying at the hotel across from the church. My friend’s grandfather lived in Uzes and he has cousins in a smaller nearby village we’ll be spending the day with. We are reaching the end of our month-long stay in France, and I’m happy we can see your charming town. We’ve enjoyed your posts, and thank you for sharing your life with us. Joan Nelson

    Sent from my iPad


    • The numbers are interesting, aren’t they. I always wondered too and never really believed when someone told me it was so reasonable. Enjoy your visit in Uzes! I know you will have a good time if you know some of the people living here. It’s just the very best! Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  3. Hi – I always went in the ambulance with my husband so I don’t think that part is correct – at least for Nice – usually with him in the back but sometimes in the front – perhaps you have to insist. Be aware that ER costs are low but hospital costs once admitted are high – so insurance IS a must. Basic and top up.

    • Thanks for the information. Perhaps it is different in Nice because we specifically asked if I could ride with her. The ambulance driver said it was against safety rules. Are you an expat, or French? I understand their national health insurance covers all hospital costs. So far, the Americans I know who have had experience in a French hospital have gone only through the emergency services, so I can’t speak for longer stays. I do have travelers insurance just in case.

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