If you are a foreigner in France and have private health care or home state cover for your emergency health care such as the UK scheme European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) these are the things you need to know about hospitals in France.
Hospitals in France are clearly signposted in towns but can be few and far between in rural areas.
The indication of a hospital in a town is as follows: “Hôpital” or more commonly “Centre hospitalier”.
In bigger towns or cities, look for signs to the CHR (Centre hospitalier régional) or CHU (centre hospitalier universitaire).
A useful website to find a hospital is http://etablissements.hopital.fr – although not in English it’s fairly easy to use. If you need accident and emergency treatment click on the section on the right hand side listed as médecine d’urgence and choose your location from the drop down box at the top of the page. If your problem is urgent call the emergency services for an ambulance (see details below).
Administrative formalities at hospital in France
When you visit the doctor or go to hospital in France, you will receive a signed “feuille de soins” (a statement of the treatment carried out), and possibly an “ordonnance” (a prescription). You will need to retain these as without them you will not be able to claim reimbursement. You will need to take the prescription (ordonnance) to a pharmacy, where you will have to pay for the items and claim reimbursement later.
Calling an ambulance in France
In the event of an emergency and the need for an ambulance the following numbers should be used:
15 – The national emergency number for medical aid. It will get you the SAMU service, with an ambulance (Service d’Aide Médical d’Urgence – Medical Emergency Aid Service). Be prepared to indicate exactly where you are located, and the circumstances of the incident.
18 – The general emergency number (like 999 in the UK or 911 US) which will get you connected to the most appropriate service.
112 – This is the standard European emergency number, you can call this number from anywhere in the European Union countries from your mobile, land line or payphone. 112 Emergency centres have access to interpreter services covering several languages. The European Commission website advises that if you are unable to tell the 112 operator where you are they will be able to locate you – within a few seconds for fixed calls and up to 30 minutes outside working hours for mobile calls.
See our section on helpful words and phrases for health situations.
How to find a doctor in France.