Medical treatment in Germany is very good. The German health care system is supported by a dense network of well-trained doctors. You can get medication from the pharmacy, but for some medicine, you might have to go to a doctor first for a prescription.
The German health care system is said to be one of the best in the world. If you happen to require medical attention, there’s probably no better place to receive it than in Germany.
AT THE DOCTOR
If you have a toothache, you go to the dentist. If you have other problems or pains, it’s best to go to a general practitioner (GP), called a “Hausarzt”. A GP can assess whether an illness or injury ought to be treated by a specialist, in which case he or she writes a referral. With this referral slip in hand, you can go to a specialist.
You can find a listing of all the GPs, dentists and medical specialists in your local Yellow Pages (the telephone book with branch listings). The addresses are also listed on the “Yellow Pages” website.
The opening hours at doctor’s offices vary greatly. Many offices are closed on Wednesday afternoons. It’s best to call before you visit and make an appointment. In urgent cases, you can go directly to the doctor’s office without an appointment. However, you might have to wait a while before the doctor can see you.
If the doctor writes you a prescription for medication, you have to go to a pharmacy to obtain it. Usually you are required to pay an additional 5 to 13 euros for prescription medication – a “surcharge for medication”. Your health insurance provider pays the rest. However, this only applies to medication prescribed by the doctor. You have to pay the full price for all other discretionary medication.
You can go to the hospital if you require urgent medical assistance in the middle of the night or at the weekend. If you are unable to get there yourself, you can dial the free-phone emergency number 112 and request an ambulance or emergency physician.
If it’s not terribly urgent, but you cannot wait until the doctor’s office opens, you can take advantage of the “Ärztlicher Bereitschaftsdienst” (Medical Emergency Service). This is a GP who is on call to handle emergencies after normal office hours. You can reach the service anywhere in Germany by dialling 116 117.
When you’re travelling on the autobahn, keep an eye out for orange emergency telephone boxes at the roadside. You can use these to call for help if you have an accident or breakdown. To reach the nearest emergency telephone, follow the arrows on the kilometre markers or the black and white street posts.
There are two categories of medication – over-the-counter and prescription medication.
You can only receive prescription medication if your doctor has written a prescription for it. The Medical Preparations Act in Germany is quite strict. Medication sold over the counter or even in supermarkets in some countries may require a prescription from a doctor in Germany. Furthermore, some countries may allow the sale of certain medication which might not be approved for use in Germany.
You can purchase over-the-counter medication at most drugstores in Germany, for example, at dm and Rossmann. These include cough syrups, cold medicine, throat lozenges and nose spray.
Most pharmacies in Germany are open Mondays to Fridays from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm, and frequently on Saturday mornings as well. Pharmacies are closed on Sundays. There are pharmacies in every city which offer emergency service after business hours and at weekends. You can find the addresses in your local newspaper in the section “Apotheken-Notdienst” (pharmacy emergency service) and at every pharmacy. You can also find contact information on the pharmacy emergency service online.