February 21, 2019 - Posted by Greg Collette
Arranging dialysis from a distance is like getting a dentist appointment. The closer the appointment, the less likely you can get one. So the Number 1 Rule is to start early.
Many countries have two kinds of dialysis centres, public and private. Some are completely separate (like Australian and the UK); others have private chairs in public units (like in China). Public dialysis is usually free to the citizens of that country, while everyone must pay to use a private unit. So visitors like me usually have to book into private units.
But not always. Some countries with public health services have signed reciprocal health care agreements, so that their public hospitals will cover any medically necessary treatment which may be required while in that country, including dialysis, at no charge. Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with 11 countries: New Zealand, The United Kingdom, The Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, The Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Malta, and Slovenia.
EU (European Union) reciprocal healthcare arrangements allow citizens of EU and EEA nations, as well as Switzerland, to access health and social care services while in any other of those nations, on the same basis as a resident of that nation would and at no or low cost.
The schemes include the EHIC (European Healthcare Insurance Card), which provides access to state-provided healthcare for short-term visitors, and the S1 scheme, which allows ongoing access to health and social care services for individuals living abroad, such as pensioners.
(Post-Brexit the UK could lose access to these arrangements, depending on the final outcome of ongoing negotiations between the EU and the UK government. The two parties have so far agreed that UK pensioners already living in the EU will be able to use the S1 and EHIC schemes post-Brexit, but no deal has been reached on wider access to the schemes.)
In theory, this is great: cost-free dialysis while travelling the world (or a subset of it). However, the reality is that in most of these countries, the public health system is super-busy all the time, and their dialysis units are usually operating at full capacity. I have tried to book into public units around the UK before with zero success, so in the past, I have used a private unit (The London Clinic, £415/session) and limited my travel to day trips close to London.
Here’s how we plan and schedule the dialysis I need at each destination.
*Steps 5 and 6 tend to be iterative. First choice days may not be available and they may suggest others. This usually means you will have to rework your flight and accommodation bookings. Eventually, they will all mesh and you will be ready to go.
Meds. I usually get all my meds packaged in blister packs at the local pharmacy. This is a great service. It saves me worrying about all those different plastic pill bottles and packs and helps minimise questions during drug searches (well I think it will, I have never actually been searched for drugs). I usually take at least two extra weeks’ worth of blister packs, just in case I am delayed anywhere.
It is also useful to take the contact details of other dialysis units at each destination, just in case something falls through.
Next Time: 6 Hot tips for International Dialysis Holidays
Posted in: Travel Guides