What to do if you have a medical emergency in Germany
You’ve just arrived in Germany and you’ve got all the necessities covered: a job lined up, health insurance sorted, and a flat to live in. But what do you do if you wake up in the middle of the night with severe stomach pain? Or if you have a bicycle accident on your way home from work one day? This is a question that Mirja Link-Lundehn, a health insurance expert at KLforExpats, gets asked a lot.
Many expats who have only recently arrived in Germany do now know about the range of options available to them in case of a medical emergency. In fact, many Germans themselves don’t even know, and so often the emergency ambulance service ends up getting called when it’s not necessary.
It’s important to know about the specific services available to you in Germany - and what their numbers are - not only so you can act fast in a medical emergency, but also so that you don’t clog up the emergency service communication system or end up out of pocket, paying for a service you didn’t actually need!
So what emergency medical services are available to you in Germany, and how do you contact them?
The only numbers you need: 112 & 116 117
As someone living in Germany, there are two emergency numbers you need to remember when it comes to health: 112 and 116 117.
112 is intended for emergencies, while 116 117 is for urgent but not life-threatening situations. Here’s a breakdown of which one you should call in different situations.
When you should call 112:
This number is not only valid in Germany but can be used in any European Union country. It is reserved for acute, possibly even life-threatening, emergencies, such as:
- Signs of a heart attack (severe chest pain, shortness of breath, cold sweat)
- Signs of a stroke (impaired vision, speech, symptoms of paralysis)
- Accidents with serious injuries / high blood loss
- Fainting / unconsciousness
- Allergic shock (anaphylaxis)
- Strong pain
- Severe burns
- Asthma attack (attack-like shortness of breath)
If you’re not sure whether the condition is life-threatening, you should still dial 112 to be on the safe side!
When this emergency number is called, the appropriate emergency vehicle (such as an ambulance) will be dispatched, along with an emergency doctor, if required. In most cases, if it is medically necessary, your health insurance provider will cover the costs associated with ambulance transport.
If you want additional benefits, such as treatment by a senior physician or a private room at the hospital, during an emergency, you should look at private health insurance options. If you are publicly-insured, you can also buy add-on supplementary health insurance.
When you should call 116 117:
This is Germany’s “on-call” emergency service that you can call outside surgery hours, including evenings, weekends and public holidays. This is for urgent but non-life-threatening medical scenarios such as:
- Flu-like infections with fever and pain
- Infections of the throat, nose, and ears (ENT)
- Gastrointestinal infections with vomiting diarrhoea
Calling this number will refer you to on-call practices that you can visit or that can come to your home if you are not able to travel. The medical on-call service takes care of both public and private patients, meaning that all costs are covered by your health insurance provider.
Finding an English-speaking doctor in your area
What if you’re just seeking general, medical help? Our best advice is to google “English-speaking doctors in [insert your postcode and / or city]”. There you will find a list of doctors, ranging from general practitioners to specialists. It’s as simple as that!
If you are covered by comprehensive private health insurance, you are free to select any doctor of your choosing. If you’re in the public scheme, however, you will need to ensure that the doctor you select welcomes “Kassenpatienten” (someone who is covered by public health insurance). Some private doctors cannot be visited by someone who is publicly insured.
If you’re seeking well-rounded cover that provides you with the freedom to select any doctor and options to suit both your lifestyle preferences and medical requirements, a health insurance broker can help you find the most suitable health insurance provider for you.
Being proactive and finding the right coverage before you fall ill is also particularly important, because once you start to suffer from recurring issues or need ongoing treatments, switching providers or buying a comprehensive private health insurance policy becomes very difficult and expensive.
If you’d like more information on how your medical needs and medical emergencies are covered by the various health insurance options available in Germany, KLforExpats is an experienced, English-speaking independent health insurance broker. Their specialist, Mirja, offers a warm, friendly service and provides free, thoughtful advice, tailored to your unique situation. Want to find out more? Get in touch with Mirja today.