In general the Spanish public health service is excellent, but it does vary around the country as each of the Autonomous Regions is charged with managing its own within a set of national standards – but local budgets! Large cities have colossal regional hospitals with all the specialities but even small towns have hospitals – the key is whether the town is capital of its comarca, which is the penultimate level of local government before a town hall (ajuntamiento). Simple fractures and minor burns, etc. are normally treated at these hospital, so the travelling biker will end up there after a smash.

Although the care is good and the system public it is vitally important to have your insurance documentation to hand and to start the claims procedure as soon as possible as you won’t be released until you have paid your bill. Even the European Health Card system may need some input form your own wallet so be warned …

If one of your party winds up being hospitalised there are a few generalities to bear in mind for in-patients – and those left wondering what to do for the rest of their trip:

The hospital ward:
  • in tourist areas hospitals have personnel to translate for patients and all hospitals should provide this – on the ground this will vary in quality though
  • most hospital wards are composed of suites of two bedded rooms, each with its own en-suite. The wards – not the rooms! – are unisex
  • visiting times are open but limited to two persons only – in theory!
  • rooms have two folding easy chairs for visitors to sleep in if necessary – one chair per patient – but you might have to assert yourself for yours!
The nurse:
  • although hospitals provide meals – and pretty bl****y awful they are too! – ‘nursing’ in Spain doesn’t include non-clinical care, like feeding the patient! So life as a lone patient in traction can be quite difficult!
  • the word for pain-killers, which are usually given at the patient’s request, is calmante. So when the nurse offers you ¿Calmante? don’t refuse it thinking it’s Valium!
  • one important ‘false friend’ the word for one common in-patient ailment is impactada – at the other end, so to speak,’costipada‘ means to have a bunged up nose!