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.
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
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.