What is the Health Service in Alicante like?
If you’re thinking about coming to live in Alicante, then you’ll probably have asked yourself, what is the Health Service in Alicante like? In this article I’d like to tell you the story of what happened to a friend of mine in the Province of Alicante over the last year or so and hopefully it will give you an idea of how the health service performs in this part of the world in a real situation.
To begin with here’s a little background information about my mate, he is a 56 year old European citizen who has been living and working in the Alicante area for the best part of 20 years. At the time the events happened he was working for a Real Estate Company as a consultant, on a full time basis with an indefinite contract and for several months leading up to the point of going to the doctor he had been feeling out of sorts.
So towards the end of September last year he finally reached the point where he didn’t want to continue and called the office saying he wasn’t well and would be going to the doctor. On the same day he was able to secure an appointment at the health centre with the family doctor. By the time he reached the consulting room he was quite at the end of his tether as he had been dragged down by the symptoms he’d been experiencing.
Now, both my mate and his wife speak Spanish so there was no need for them to have interpreter along to translate. With a lump of desperation in his throat he reeled off his symptoms which included: Pulsatile Tinnitus, Nausea, Headaches and Anxiety. On hearing this the doctor took his pulse and seeing it was high immediately sent him downstairs for an ECG.
It turned out that his heartrate was a little elevated but that there was no cause for concern. Back with the doctor he was diagnosed with stress and anxiety before written off sick for a week and prescribed Diazepam to calm his nerves. The doctor also arranged that he visit an Otolaryngologist, or more simply put, an Ear Nose and Throat specialist to see if they could find out what was causing the tinnitus and nausea.
It took a few weeks for the appointments to come through and in the meantime my friend sent his sick notes to the office and returned on a few occasions to the doctor who extended the sick notes because the symptoms weren’t improving. Also during this time he was summoned to the offices of a Mutual Insurance Company which his employers used. If you want to see an example of a Mutual Insurance Company in the area then click here. After a brief examination by one of their doctors he was scheduled for another examination and this time via virtual appointment with a psychoanalyst who would try to find out more about the causes of his anxiety.
Over the next few months he continued traveling back and for to the doctor and also had the appointment with the analyst who, without actually meeting with him face to face prescribed anti-depressants. Also during this time he had an appointment with the ear nose and throat specialist who took a quick look in his ears before arranging a hearing test. A couple of weeks later after the hearing test he returned to the specialist who told him that the result was negative and there was nothing wrong with his hearing.
The weeks turned into months and still his symptoms didn’t improve and it seemed as if the doctors were at a loss to find out the cause. By December he had seen the ear nose and throat specialist and because he was unhappy with the diagnosis had asked for and received a second opinion from a doctor who seemed to take the matter more seriously and applied for an MRI Scan of his head. Also during this time he had seen a psychiatrist who had prescribed stronger anti-depressants which he decided not to take because he was of the firm belief that his problem was of a physical and not a mental nature.
Day after day he suffered from tinnitus, nausea and headaches plus of course anxiety and it seemed as though that even after four months of going from doctor to doctor he was no closer to a cure or even finding out exactly was happening to him. Needing some kind of diagnosis he told himself he was suffering from a mixture of anxiety and burn out which was probably causing the other symptoms.
Finally on Christmas Eve 2019 things came to a head and whilst out walking with his wife and their young dog, he keeled over, brought to the floor by a pain in his right elbow which had been bothering him since the previous evening. Out in the countryside and alone his wife called a friend who was luckily in the area and together they called the emergency services who came to the rescue.
Once on the scene the Fire Service, local Police, Ambulance Service and the Guardia Civil quickly got the situation under control and following specific orders from the emergency doctor rushed my friend to Alicante Hospital. As it turned out he had suffered an Ischemic Stroke and seeing as Alicante Hospital has a Specialised Stroke Unit the doctor had made an excellent decision.
The next 72 hours he spent in intensive care followed by another 48 hours under observation before going out on to the ward where he spent another 4 days before being transferred to Alcoy Hospital because it was closer to where he lived. The stay in Alicante hospital would probably have been shorter apart from the fact that the whole episode took place right in the middle of the Christmas period. The same can really be said of the time he subsequently remained in Alcoy Hospital because there were two full days added to his stay because of the Spanish Holiday on January 6th, but finally on January 7th he was released from hospital.
For the first two weeks after being released from hospital he had to wear a heart monitor because the Neurologists were unsure of what caused the blot clot which brought about the stroke and they wanted to make sure that there weren’t any problems with his heart that they might have not seen. As part of his convalescence he had to take part in physio therapy sessions three times a week for two months. However, as he has said to me many times since, he was very lucky and came away from the attack with hardly any visible damage.
Not too long after he was released from the Physio Therapy, the Covid 19 Virus tightened its grip on the country and Spain went into a state of Lockdown. This interfered with quite a few of his subsequent appointments with his doctor and the Neurologist and instead of seeing him in person he was dealt with over the telephone which even though it wasn’t ideal is still better than nothing.
In closing I’ll let him give us the final word on the question: What is the Health Service in Alicante like?
Over the past 20 years I have seen how other members of my family and also some of my friends have been treated by the Health System here. Now, following my own and rather intense experience with them, I suppose the best way I could sum up their approach to health care would be by saying: they don’t score very highly went it comes down to preventative medicine but they function extremely well in an emergency and I owe them my life!
After those words I’ll end this by saying that he is still on the sick and being paid by the social security via the mutual insurance company, which means that from a financial point of view he thankfully hasn’t suffered too badly, however it is good to remember that he is in the privileged position of being a full time employee on an indefinite contract and I know from speaking to other people if he were self-employed then the situation wouldn’t look so rosy. Of course the treatment he would have received from the Health Service would have been the same but he would not have enjoyed any form of income, but that’s another story.
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Cheers and ’till the next time,