Healthcare in Tenerife

People often ask me about medical care in Tenerife, primarily because they are used to the good old ‘National Health Service’ in the UK -whose reputation, incidentally, has somewhat diminished over the years, thanks to the usual Government cut-backs on spending, salary deficiencies -and a whole host of other reasons, -reasons which I am not going to talk about, as this blog is not about healthcare in the UK, but looking after oneself when holidaying, or living on the island of Tenerife. When I first moved out to the island in 1998 I immediately took out a private medical insurance policy -something that was deemed a necessity back in the 90’s -and I have to say that over the years that followed I certainly had my money’s worth -especially when my partner and her son joined me on the island in 2001.

Then in 2009 I returned to the UK, subsequently curtailing my upgraded ‘family’ policy, which had covered all three of us for the last eight years. Three years later, in February 2012 I returned to the Canary Islands, but now that I was working on an ‘Autonimo’ (self-employed) basis, and thus making regular monthly payments to the government and social services department, which in turn covered me for any medical expenses, etc I decided that it was unnecessary to take out private insurance as well. Like BUPA back in the UK I have to admit that the standard of healthcare is somewhat ‘upmarket’, shall we say, when one is ‘going private’, but on the whole I have no complaints with the public healthcare system -especially now that the area I live in has recently built a brand new clinic-cum-healthcare centre.

As I am presently in need of two hip replacements my current doctor referred me to the El Mojon Hospital, which is situated on the main Arona Road leading up into the hills way above Los Cristianos, where I underwent a series of X-rays, before being released to carry-on with my day. Apart from the fact that every part of this massive complex was immaculately clean, and the staff bent-over backwards to speak to me in English, I had to commend the fact that the waiting time for X-rays was around ‘6’ minutes -and I ended-up heading for my workplace within half-an-hour of entering the place. (Mind you, that excluded the 10 minutes I spent looking for the main entrance -which is around the ‘back’ of the hospital -and NOT in the front!)

As a paying resident one is entitled to healthcare cover, but what about holiday-makers and visitors to the island? Well, I am sure that we are all patently aware that it is well-advisable to take out insurance cover when flying anywhere on holiday, but there are a few additional things one should also take into consideration. The EHIC card is a necessity, as this should cover all EU nationals, although certain hospitals can make life difficult for people trying to use the card. In Tenerife the two main hospitals which will accept the use of this card is the ‘Hospiten Sur’ (more affectionately known as ‘The Green Hospital’) and the aforementioned ‘El Mojon Hospital -although the Quiron Hospital in Costa Adeje will assist with any necessary medical treatment that cannot wait until the patient returns home.

To assist all British travellers in Europe the Department of health, along with the British Embassy in Madrid, have produced a short video on how to use the card correctly, and so a copy of this would be well-worth obtaining before going on holiday. Finally, here are just a few tips about obtaining medical treatment here in Tenerife. Firstly, it is better to dial ‘061’ which puts you directly through to the ambulance department, rather than dialling ‘112’, which will direct you to the ‘Emergency Services’, where you will then be asked whether you require ‘Fire, Police or Ambulance?’ Another important item to be aware of is that unless a qualified doctor has called an ambulance for you -you will have to foot-the-bill for the call-out charge -along with any medical attention you may require on the journey to the hospital -hence medical insurance is imperative.

Should one have a medical requirement, which they consider to be relatively minor, then the assistance of a local clinic would most-certainly be cheaper than using the facilities of a hospital. In the Valdes Centre in Los Cristianos, just across the way from the main bus station, there is a clinic which accepts the EHIC card for both minor ailments, and also emergencies. Wherever one is travelling abroad one should always have at least two forms of photographic identity on them -especially if one is driving, as the police can be pretty hot on these things. Likewise, it is always important to have your EHIC card up-to-date. Now and again language-barriers can be a major obstacle, and interpreters, if they are not provided, can be expensive to hire, and so if you have any medical concerns whilst you are in Tenerife then it may well be worth contacting Karen Whittaker, an English doctor, whose surgery is adjacent to the Arona Grand Hotel. She can be called on (0034) 922 798 226. The cost for a consultation is around €30 (approximately £20) -which has to be worth the money -even if it is only to give you peace-of-mind throughout your holiday.