Local hospitals will be listed in the Yellow Pages, but it may be better to ask your GP, chemist or the English-language clubs and other resources in the area, as they will be able to tell you which hospitals have emergency services and how they function. There are special hospitals or hospital sections for children, and it’s usually possible for parents to stay overnight with a child.
Hospital care is generally very good in Belgium, although practices may differ from those in your home country. In most cases, hospitalisation must be arranged by your GP and there may be a waiting list for certain non-emergency treatments and services.
When going to a hospital, you should take your own pyjamas, robe and slippers, as well as personal toiletries (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.), towels and flannels. (If you’re admitted in an emergency, you should ask a friend or family member to bring you these items.) You’ll also need a small amount of money to pay for telephone calls, television programmes and, in some cases, bottled water and other items offered by private services within the hospital.
In Belgium there are two kinds of hospitals. A hôpital or ziekenhuis has its own staff on duty 24 hours a day. If you’re admitted to one of these hospitals, you probably won’t see your GP at all during your stay, as hospital staff are in charge of your case once you’re admitted. A clinic (clinique/kliniek) is a private hospital with its own staff to provide patient services, but where your GP is usually in charge of your care during your stay. Most doctors are affiliated with at least one or two clinics and may give you a choice if you need to be hospitalised. Which type of hospital you attend will depend on the treatment you’re receiving and whether your GP needs to oversee it.
You’ll be asked to pay a deposit when you’re admitted, and unless the hospital has an arrangement with your insurance company to bill them directly you’ll be asked to settle your bill weekly throughout your hospitalisation. Women in Belgium are admitted to hospital under their maiden names, so if you want to visit or contact a woman in hospital, make sure you know what her maiden name is.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in in Holland, Belgium & Luxembourg from Survival Books.