Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Didn't we have a lovely time the day we went to .... a French hospital

Sorry for the lack of Blog postings over the last week or so but I've been really really busy writing a bid at work. I've had the unenviable task of being the bid manager so whilst I've not had to write any sections of the bid myself I've had to proof read all that the rest of the team have written (and correct what they've written, and point out all the bits of the requirements that they've not answered, and re-review the sections, and in many cases re-write them as well) - some 260+ pages in all !

So consequently I've been working stupid stupid hours, 7am to 1am most days.

Well finally all done, the bid was submitted on Sunday evening and I can now relax a bit more. Flew a few more circuits of the airfield on Monday but the weather was a bit too marginal for me to go up for my second solo flight so will have to wait for next weekend now.

Anyway, back to the subject in hand, French hospitals!

When we were over at our holiday Gite in August I noticed that one of the prior guests had made a suggestion in the 'Gite Diary' that we provide for our guests to write about where they've been, what they've done, places recommended, or ideas for the Gite. The suggestion was that we ought to add some details in the 'Gite Guide' folder about where the nearby medical facilities were - just in case anyone needed a doctors or the hospital.

Fortunately in over 70 different sets of guests staying in the Gite over the last 4 years we've only had to help one party of guests out previously with details of where the nearby doctor is (who speaks good English), so we'd never got round to writing up the emergency contact details.

Little did I suspect that this suggestion would turn out to be prophetic for us!

We'd been at the Gite for a week and on the Sunday night I'd taken our dog Dexter out for a walk in the evening and the kids had come along with me as well. They were walking and I was riding on one of the bikes we keep in the barn.

After we'd got back from the walk I found Liz had had an accident whilst we'd been out and had tripped whilst rushing up the stairs into the house, had put her hands out to save herself, and as she fell over she'd bent her fingers on her right hand back, so much so that she thought she'd broken them, and was now in agony.

Nothing for it but a trip to the hospital to get Liz's hand x-ray'd and strapped up. I wasn't expecting the medical treatment would be that much different whether it had been broken or not, Dr Geoffrey predicted that the hand would be strapped up and immobilised either way!

I wasn't actually sure where there was a local Accident and Emergency unit but as I knew there definitely was a hospital in Pontivy and since Pontivy was a big town I guessed (correctly) that there would be an emergency unit there so off we set.

Pontivy Hospital, Brittany, Emergency unit

The Urgences unit was deserted and unlike a British A&E it wasn't full of drunkards and their police escorts.
Once the medical staff had assertained that we were not French nationals (and thus didn't have a French medical insurance policy) they didn't seem all that bothered about Liz's passport our our EHIC European reciprocal health cover cards. Liz was quickly booked in and sent off in the hands of the medical staff leaving me to look after our children in the waiting room.

Fortunately we'd brought their DS's and some books with us so they were kept quiet whilst I watched CSI overdubbed in French on the TV! I was also struck by the coffee vending machine that only charged 50 cents per drink; quite decent coffee for me and hot chocolate for the boys - in the UK this machine would have been another money-making scheme for the NHS ...

An hour or so later Liz came out, as predicted with her hand all strapped up, and fortunately the X-rays had shown that it wasn't broken merely badly sprained and bruised. We were given a prescription for paracetamol for the pain, given a sheet of paper with hospital telephone numbers on, and told to make an appointment with the doctor for later that week for a checkup.

French hospital treatment, Liz's hand all strapped up

And that was that.

Next day trying to book the appointment was a "laugh" (not) as the telephone number I'd been given didn't work, so after several fruitless attempts I phoned the main hotel number, got a recorded message in very rapid French telling me to dial a new number (so took me two attempts to correctly right it down), and then I finally got through to the hotel switchboard.
Lots of fun and games trying to explain in French that I wanted to make an appointment - firstly to the switchboard operator, and then the minor fractures unit secretary. I of course couldn't pronounce either the 'secretariat''s name (i.e. department name) or the doctor's name correctly so it took some time to make myself understood and book the appointment.

The paracetamol turned out to be almost exactly the same as in the UK, only difference was that it was 1000Mg of active ingredient (instead of 500Mg) and you take one tablet instead of two. So no difference. Except for the price .... paracetamol in the UK are 16p for 16 in Tesco, in France they were €1.08 for 8 - a massive 675% uplift!

Over the course of the next week Liz's hand slowly got better, she was able to take the support off after a few days and start using her hand again, but even now (some 2 months later) she still gets some pain in her hand.

Finding our way round the hospital for the checkup was a bit different as well. We firstly made the mistake of going to the fractures ward, to get sent back down to the fractures outpatients unit, to be sent back to get to get booked in at the central bookings in desk (again once we'd shown our EHIC they weren't interested in our paperwork), to then go back to the fractures outpatients unit where we were seen almost immediately by the doctor who spoke pretty good English and talked us through what the x-rays showed and prescribed some anti-inflammatory cream to help reduce the bruising. Then back to the central booking-in desk again to settle our bill for the doctors visit (another €8) and we were finally all complete.

I think in theory I could claim for the medical treatment and the two sets of prescriptions but it just doesn't seem worth the hassle. Main thing is that Liz is OK and her hand wasn't broken.

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