As Switzerland is a non-EU country it has a slightly different healthcare service that is a combination of public, subsidised private and fully private systems. It is renowned throughout Europe for its high-quality medical services.
|Emergency Numbers in Switzerland|
How the system works
European visitors should obtain the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), and those from outside of Europe (including visitors from the UK) should obtain the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which enables them to get state healthcare at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. Non-EU visitors are not covered in Switzerland unless they are a stateless person or a refugee. Therefore, private health and travel insurance are essential.
If you need an ambulance then you can call 144 free of charge from any phone. Ambulance services will only transport the patient, so any friends or family members would need to make their own way to the hospital. You will need to pay some of the cost of the ambulance yourself, so it is better to only call an ambulance if the patient is not in a fit state to go by car, taxi or bus.
Medicines and other treatments prescribed by a doctor can be obtained from any pharmacy. In Switzerland pharmacies have an out-of-hours service at weekends and overnight - you can find out which pharmacy near you is open after hours by dialling 1818. Information is given in German, French, Italian and English.
Family medical care & children
When you’re travelling with children there are few essential items to remember, especially when it come to their health on holiday. Here are a few pointers to help keep your little ones out of trouble:
- Make sure you have antibacterial and/or a hand sanitiser spray. A quick wipe of surfaces or cutlery where you’re unsure of hygiene, or a squirt of hand sanitiser when there’s no washing facilities, can keep away some of those common holiday bugs.
- Getting ill on holiday can be quite common for little ones so remember to pack a thermometer and some medicine to bring down fever and help them sleep. You may not be able to find what you are used to in the local pharmacy so take some with you to save on time and hassle.
- Sting cream or an anti-histamine is an essential...the biting insects enjoy the heat as much as we do.
- A small first aid kit is great with tweezers, antiseptic cream and plasters for those little accidents and minor emergencies.
The other major concern with children is the sun and heat. They may not be used to being out in the midday heat so make sure they are well protected with a high factor sun cream, seek natural shade and wear protective clothing (hat, sunglasses etc).
If you do need to visit a doctor or hospital whilst on holiday then make sure that all children are registered with the appropriate GHIC/EHIC scheme (although this may not cover everything so make sure you have comprehensive family travel insurance as well). Family cards can all be linked and renewed at the same time to make life easier. In times of panic it is easy to forget small details to have a list prepared with the following information so you can hand it directly to the health care professional:
- Take their passport and GHIC/EHIC card
- List their name clearly, plus age and weight (in kg)
- Any medications that children are taking (take these with you as well) and include how often, how they are taken and how long they have been taking it
- A list of vaccinations and dates (specifically tetanus)
- Any allergies they have - include asthma, hayfever, eczema, foods and other medicines if applicable
- Any recent medical conditions/bouts of sickness/surgery
Once you are with the doctor it is helpful to have a few words to describe the problem, in case they do not speak English. Have a translation book or phone app ready to use. Again it is useful to write everything down so you don't forget and ask them to do the same so you can review information, advice or treatment thoroughly.
Paying for treatment
You will not be covered for private treatment with your GHIC/EHIC, so make sure you are treated by a state-funded healthcare provider. Any costs incurred for private healthcare are non-refundable. You may be asked to pay your medical bills upfront and then claim a refund using your card. You should always try to apply for your refund before you return home.
For information on reimbursement of costs in Switzerland, download the KVG information leaflets. Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies and keep the originals if necessary) as they might be needed by you or your insurance company to apply for a refund or reimbursement. You will not be eligible for a refund if you have been treated privately.
Note: you will pay extra to buy medicines at an out-of-hours pharmacy.
Who to call & when
Private on-call emergency care
If you are travelling and have a medical issue you can call SOS Médecins. On-call qualified doctors will come to your accommodation straight away, equipped with the necessary medical material.