While going on holiday nobody thinks they will have to go to a doctor’s. In the meantime, it’s worth buying a good insurance policy before one leaves, applying for EHIC card and checking how the health services operate in your destination place. In this way not only will you save some money but time as well. It’s good to know that in the Canary Islands the health service operates according to different rules than the one in Spain on the continent. Life is full of surprises and sometimes even one small grain can change the whole week of your holiday.  Mine changed significantly.

Who would have thought that this innocent photo shoot in Maspalomas take me to the hospital
Who would have thought that this innocent photo shoot in Maspalomas take me to the hospital

When the sand catches your eye

It started very innocently. It’s 11pm. I’m lying nicely in my bed thinking about tomorrow’s trip to pico de Nieves (the highest peak in Gran Canary) which we planned before going to Fuerteventura. One movement of my quilt and I suddenly felt something pricking in my eye. It looks that something got into my eye. For 15 minutes I was trying to get it out by rubbing my eye and an eyelid. As soon as Karolina left the bathroom I started the attack. I started rinsing my face intensively concentrating on my eye mostly, which gave no effects at all. My friend talked me into treating my eye with some lens liquid and that was not a good idea. Keep it in your mind for some future use, you can rinse your eye only with water or physiological saline. Lens liquid can, in this case, only irritate your eyes more. As they say, it’s easy to be a wise Pole after the event.

After 40 minutes I gave up and decided to go to bed hoping to recover throughout a night. It was one of the worst nights. I kept tossing in my bed and tightening my eyelid in order not to feel the pain. I didn’t have a wink of sleep that night. At 6 in the morning Karolina, sleepy as well, suggested visiting a doctor. I was both angry and sad that we wouldn’t see pico de Las Nieves because of me. I knew how much Karolina wanted it  but on the other hand, she was right that my health was the most important. We still had a night ferry crossing to Fuerteventura where we were to spend 5 days.

Insurance and seek doctor

Fuerteventura is basically one big beach so when it comes down to something, it will be much harder to find a doctor than in Gran Canary with the capital in Las Palmas. Anyway, it turned out that there was a hospital in Maspalomas where we were staying. We headed there right after breakfast. Unfortunately, it turned out they couldn’t see me so I had to look for some private practice. This, unfortunately, is connected with unexpected costs. You can use your EHIC card, which is a warranty of a free medical service throughout Europe, only in a state-owned medical facilities. I started thinking of going to Las Palmas which had the biggest hospital but a Spain woman I met advised me against it. Allegedly they also send you to a private clinic from there. It’s said that the health service operates very badly in Canary Islands. There may be some state hospitals in operation but they basically send patients to private clinics where you have to pay huge sums of money. In practice, a basic visit is the cost of about 50 € and specialists charge even more. What to do then?

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I have Europaische Reiseversicherung AG as part of purchasing my trip from travel agency and The European Youth Card so I should be able to use them. I called my tour representative to check for me which facilities would be available within the scope of Itaka insurance. Luckily for me, one of them was only a few kilometers away from us so we took a taxi and went there. I have to admit that Las Palmeras clinic didn’t look too inviting and professional. A lady in a reception didn’t win my trust somehow. It turned out that there was only one surgery open and only one physician of all trades. I took a look at the man and already knew that it wasn’t somebody I would allow to mingle in my eye. We rushed out of there in a hurry.

We called our tour representative again who was explicitly fed up with us already. However, he was kind enough to give us the names of other clinics including Clinica Roca in San Agustin. We were quite tired and almost broke so we asked if he could give us a lift which, anyway, was a part of his job as well. At first he refused explaining that he had to arrange some matters in town etc. I got pissed off and lied that I didn’t speak any English and Spanish and that I felt faint. I managed to convince him and he was to come in 30 minutes.

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The role of resident in the event of emergency situations and insurance 

Such a situation shouldn’t have occurred at all. The tour representatives is responsible for us it’s his duty to assist us especially in emergency situations. If you ever happen to find yourselves in a similar situation, don’t let anybody give you short shrift. Being a tour representative is a job, not a paid holiday.

We got to Clinica Roca in San Augustin where first I had to fill in a patient’s card and then contact my insurer in order to have some proper documents faxed. They let you use their phone to do it. Only then can we receive medical services. Unfortunately, in the case of Europaische Reiseversicherung AG (that’s why I do not recommend it) your own contribution in the amount of 20 € is required. Besides, they warrant the refund only for the first visit. If it turned out that a second visit at another specialist was required then the decision on costs refund would be taken only after it on the basis of a doctor’s decision – an insurer’s consultant.

Luckily for me I had The European Youth Card , which I recommend to anyone before the age of 30. In the case of which one phone call and one fax was enough. They don’t have any restrictions as to consultations and don’t require any contribution of your own. In this way I got to an emergency room for free where I got examined and had my eye cleansed and bandaged. After 15 minutes it turned out that it didn’t help at all and I required further examination by an eye specialist as my eye could have been damaged. Having not much of a choice I made an appointment to the only visit available on that day, which was in 4 hours.

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San Augustin it’s not only clinic but also amazing views

We had some time to visit the area though. San Augustin is the resort situated on the south-east coast of Gran Canaria and the hospital was in the direct vicinity of the sea and beaches. The coast is really beautiful, full of small volcanic bays where you can sit down and look at the sea. Walking down Las Flores promenade you have a chance to admire beautiful gardens and sandy beaches. In these hours there were no crowds as well. It was quite quiet. It was a small compensation after the trip we had missed. Luckily for us, later at a street we met a girl who sold that trip to us and she agreed to refund 90% of costs.

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The eye was saved and the culprit found

At 3pm I came back to the clinic. I was sent to a state-owned part where having shown my EHIC card  I was admitted by a handsome Spanish guy who said my eyes were beautiful. Well, those Latino guys! They’re always ready to say something nice. One eye was bandaged and the other all in tears as it had to make do for both eyes. An eye specialist was very nice as well and patiently examined my eye under a microscope for 15 minutes trying to find the reason for pain. “Esta”- she shouted. The problem is gone. There was a little grain of sand under my eyelid so it wasn’t visible to the naked eye and couldn’t be removed without proper equipment. Can you believe that such a small grain can cause so many problems and so much pain? Allegedly it often happens to sunbathers even if they wear glasses.

I only have to go to a pharmacist’s for an ointment and eye drops against inflammation and everything will be fine. The bill is the pharmacy was less than 2 € simply because selling generic drugs, which content don’t differ from original drugs and which don’t come in company packaging, is very popular in Spain. It’s a thing worth remembering while buying medicine in Spanish pharmacy as the difference in price is sometimes even 50 – 80%. Pharmacists usually offer them to you. If it didn’t take place, however, then it’s worth asking about them.

I hope his story convinced you how important it was to have your EHIC card and to know the general terms of your insurance policy. It’s also good to prepare a list of health facilities available in the area and, first of all, have a tour representative’s phone number. Sometimes in emergency situations it can be our only contact. And the most important thing, don’t play doctor, as I did, as you can hurt yourself even more. Remember, if something didn’t come out of your eye after 15 minutes, it won’t come out by itself.

One more important thing is of course money. Even if you have insurance be always ready for extra spending. I’ve heard of people using travel credit cards to protect themselves from travelling mishaps. While some travel credit cards offer mild insurance, they rarely provide comprehensive coverage. If you lose your luggage, get stranded due to airline problems, or need to travel for a family medical emergency, you may be covered. However, it is very rare, if not impossible, to find a travel credit card which offers personal medical coverage in any capacity. If you’re looking for travel insurance, it is suggested you look elsewhere for a more comprehensive plan.

Have you ever had the same situation? Is there any unexpected situation destroyed your plans? Did you have ever problems with insurance? Please share your experience in comments. Maybe you have some golden advice?

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