Doctors can be General Practitioners or Specialists (cardiologist, laryngologist...) and hold their consultations in their office, a hospital or a
clinic. The patient has the right to ask any question about the tests, the treatment and the risks involved in the illness. The doctor must give him/her the information.
As for general practitioners you can see any doctor (they also make house visits for a small supplement) for a
cost of €21 but you will not be reimbursed by the Social Security if you are not part of the French Social Security system.
Since 2005, you need to see a general practitioner before you visit a specialist or you will pay an additional cost.
You can buy certain drugs over the counter in a pharmacy but a lot of them require a doctor's prescription. Don't be surprised if you do not find your
national drug brand names, they vary from one country to another.
In France, pharmacists have the right to give medical advice. Rather than go to the doctor when not seriously ill, many people prefer to consult
the pharmacist for what medicine to take. They are generally very helpful.
To find a pharmacy, just go down the street, you'll inevitably come across one.
You can be treated by any French hospital in case of emergency. Hospitals are public institutions (under State control) and are required to provide
treatment for any person who needs it, either as an out-patient or inpatient, during the day, at night or as an emergency.
There is a fixed cost ("tarif conventionné") for medical consultations, surgery or hospital fees. However certain specialist doctors charge higher fees for private consultations in
hospitals. If you occupy a bed in a hospital or a clinic you pay a fixed daily hospital charge ("forfait journalier") of €15 in addition to treatment costs.
There are also private hospitals, known as "Cliniques". Clinics are private. Some of them charge the standard fee ("tarif conventionné") and perform the
same service as hospitals. Some operate outside the system: consultation fees, surgery and hospital fees are higher.
What is better? The choice of hospital or clinic is entirely up to you. The type of treatment, the equipment or the doctor's fee are all factors
that can influence your choice. However, for a very serious case, it is often wiser to go to a public hospital, especially a CHU (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire).
Other care providers
- Medical Centres (Dispensaires) = Health center
In a medical centre you can see a doctor or a dentist and get treatment from a nurse. They do not exist everywhere. They are open to everyone. Fees are
fixed ("conventionné"). They are often run by the local authorities. Ask for information at the town Hall.
In case of emergency:
- In case of a real emergency call the SAMU(this is a day and night emergency service tel. 15) or call the fire-brigade, who provides 24 hour-emergency
service (tel. 18). Those two numbers are totally free of charge
and can be reached from anywhere, at any time.
- tel. 112 : European emergency number ( like 911 in USA )
- Useful numbers for emergencies:
> SOS Medecin tel. 0820 33 24 24 (if you need a doctor to visit you at home and your general practitioner is not available)
> AIDS Emergency : 0800 84 08 00
> Urgences pédiatrie (paediatrician emergency service) tel. 01 43 94 35 01 (in Paris). For other cities, call the SAMU (tel. 15).
> SOS Dentiste tel. 01 43 37 51 00 (in Paris). For other cities call the SAMU (tel. 15).
> SOS Help (English-language crisis line) tel. 01 46 21 46 46
> Emergency pharmacy in Paris:
Pharmacie des Champs Elysées (24 hours a day, English-speaking)
84 av. des Champs Elysées
75008 Paris Tel. +33(0)1 45 62 02 41