Here are the steps from insurance to getting your medication.
Be Covered: Insurance
The first thing which is a must if you live here (at least officially) is that you have to have medical insurance. If you have a long-term visa, you should have organized health insurance from one of these companies. If you are a permanent resident, then you are entitled to participate in the public health insurance system. In either case, check that your doctor accepts the insurance company you have.
Book or Try your Luck
Broadly speaking, there are two ways to see your doctor. You can make an appointment, which may shorten the wait at the surgery but may mean you have to wait a week or more to see your doctor. Usually this is for more involved treatment.
If the matter is more urgent, or you are just feeling off color, then you can see the doctor during the office’s operating hours (ordinační hodiny). The problem is several other people will be doing this, too. According to several experts – okay, family members – going in the afternoon increases your chances of a shorter wait time as those needing more attention tend to go in earlier. But there’s no guarantee.
If you do want to try your luck, it is important to know who was the person who came before you so that you know your place in the queue. Once you know your place, be sure to guard it, because some people may try to jump in.
Free Health Cover, almost: the regulation fee
When visiting the doctor, there is a regulation fee of 30 CZK. This is either paid to the nurse/receptionist before seeing the doctor, or the office may have a ticketing machine. You place the required amount for the fee in it and it dispenses a ticket, which you then present to the nurse to show you’ve paid. Remember, the regulation fee only counts if you’re covered by Czech public health insurance.
The fees are:
30 CZK for a doctor’s visit (this includes specialists)
60 CZK per day of stay in hospital (if you visit a GP at a hospital you pay the above fee)
90 CZK for emergency treatment
Before seeing the doctor, you need to show proof of ID – e.g. your passport, and your means of insurance (either the card from your Czech Insurance company, or your EHIC if you’re a European Union citizen).
Be Covered: Your Shoes
For GP visits you will be expected to put a protective covering on each shoe, called návlek. There is usually a container outside the doctor’s door and a bin where to dispose of the used ones. Be sure not to confuse the two.
In some other circumstances you’ll be expected to remove your shoes. The surgery will then provide slippers for you to wear.
More than one at a time
Even though the doctor will tend to one patient one at a time, for those procedures which require only a nurse (such as an injection), someone else might be treated at the same time.
Many health funds entitle you to vaccinations at a reduced rate. Tetanus shots are free. Doctors can be very pushy about getting this done and will even schedule an appointment for tetanus shots, citing health regulations.
Some doctors can be a little condescending, and relationships are usually formal with family names used for the patient, “pane Doktore/paní Doktorko” used for the doctor and “paní sestro” for the nurse. Personally, I’ve yet to hear of, let alone meet, a male nurse here.
One curious aspect of patient doctor relations, even more so than the shoe thing, is that patients will often buy their doctors, especially their GPs, small gifts. Wine seems to be a popular one. A reason given for this is that some doctors are reluctant to take on new patients. To show gratitude and keep in the good books – not to mention the registry book – patients buy a little something.
Take Your Medicine
During the business hours of pharmacies, usually 09:00 to 17:00, you will be sent to said establishment to pick up your prescription. Even if you don’t pay for the medication, you will have to pay 30 CZK for the “issuing of medicine on a prescription” – which should mean each occasion you obtain prescription medicine, not per type. Outside of business hours, it can still be possible to get prescription medicine if visiting a specialist or hospital. From experience a regulation fee was not charged in these cases.
So what are your experiences?