Foreign Hospitals

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The experiences of people who have an accident abroad vary greatly, often encountering different standards of health care that is dependant on the travel destination. It was not until an accident in summer 2004 I came to realise that simply because people are on holiday they are exempt from accidents, and in many cases act in ways that make them more prone to them.

As part of a university sports tour I was part of a large group who travelled by coach to Cella, a small town built for the summer influx of British students, located an hour north of Barcelona. It was here that we spent the week in typical student fashion, partying and sunning ourselves in the little daylight that was actually seen.

The morning after one such night I slipped off a raised platform, and with a lacerated thumb. With a tea towel wrapped around the wound I was instructed by the complex manager to walk a mile to the local hospital to seek attention. Although the language barrier proved a frustrating and time consuming obstacle, my thumb was eventually cleaned and sewn, albeit with stitches that would have looked more at home in a veterinary surgery.

The incident was not concluded there. The complexity was that I had lacerated the nerve running down the thumb and the resulting hospital hadn’t the facilities to operate, and would have meant a transfer to Barcelona. With a flight home only taking an hour, I caught a plane back to England where the operation was carried out on my return.

The experience played a crucial role in ensuring that I now always travel with my own medical insurance, although at the time my E111 and student travel insurance covered the costs, it could have been a lot worse.

On a recent trip this experience was put in stark contrast in an area of the world supposedly less developed than Spain. The country was Thailand, and the incident involved a group member being stabbed in the arm with a broken bottle.

The incident happened late at night, so a walk-in visit to the local hospital the morning after was required. Presented upon arrival was a hospital that rivalled anything I had previously seen. We were seen immediately, and after being taken into an immaculately clean room, the party member was bandaged up and on his way with antibiotics in hand.


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