France is a world leader in medical science and standards are among the highest in the world. Hospitals are generally clean, efficient and well equipped. Medical specialists are plentiful, and waiting lists for treatment short.
The system consists of both state-operated hospitals, required to treat all patients regardless of their ability to pay, and private facilities. Private hospitals or clinics are preferred by expats for elective surgery despite their high fees. Medical staff there will almost certainly speak English. For any major treatment, whether elective or not, it is wise to shop around and to compare the costs. It may also be worth considering treatment outside France.
Many hospitals have 24-hour emergency facilities. You should note your nearest one in case of emergency. Maternity facilities are generally good, and accept new mothers for stays of between five and 14 days.
If you need emergency assistance at home you can call either the fire department – pompiers – or SAMU, Service d’Aide Medicale d’Urgence, a combination of fire and ambulance service well-trained to deal with medical emergencies. SAMU will send a fully-equipped ambulance for transportation to the most appropriate hospital. You will be billed by either of these services, but you can seek social security or insurance reimbursement.
Resident foreigners legally working in France and their families are eligible for the French national health insurance system, Sécurité sociale. Supplementary medical insurance is also available from groups called Mutuelles d’Assurances.
The major cities, including Paris, have many skilled physicians, a number of whom make house calls. English speaking physicians are numerous but tend to charge high fees. A list of English-speaking physicians, both general practitioners and specialists, can be obtained from your embassy or consulate. Alternatively, ask colleagues and other expats for recommendations.
Children should be up to date with the usual routine childhood vaccinations: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DPT), varicella (chicken pox), and polio, as well as annual flu shots for those who are able to get them.
- Information courtesy of Living Abroad, www.livingabroad.com