When one of our loyal clients offered to write about their experience of navigating the French medical system to help others who may find themselves in a similar position, we were delighted with their kind offer. Here is their story...
Tell us what happened.
One might imagine that the greatest chance of injury on a winter sports holiday is skiing itself. Not so in our family’s case. Previous causes of our trips to the “cabinet médical” have ranged from being hit over the head by a carpark barrier to pulling a calf muscle stepping onto the famous Flaine “yoghurt pot” Télébenne lift and being taken out by a chairlift in Claviere during a lapse in concentration! However, by far the worst incident was our teenage daughter sliding over on the ice and breaking her ankle, as soon as we reached Village Montana Plein Sud in Val Thorens, at the start of our Christmas 2022 ski holiday.
Where do you head to first after an accident and who should you call?
We knew straight away that we’d need medical assistance. As we had driven to France, we were able to transport our daughter from the residence to the Val Thorens medical centre, where we gave details of our winter sports travel insurance. We then phoned our travel insurance provider to notify them of the injury and claim. This enabled the medical centre to invoice the insurance company directly for all medical treatment in resort.
What happened next?
Our daughter’s ankle was immediately X rayed and put in a temporary cast. The doctor then arranged for our daughter to have surgery on her ankle at Le Centre Hospitalier d’Albertville-Moutiers the next day.
What sort of supplies did you need and where did you pick these up?
I went to the pharmacy to buy products such as bandages to replace those used at the medical centre, anti-clotting injections and prescribed pain relief. The pharmacy also supplied crutches with spikes to walk on ice. This initial pharmacy bill came to around £400, but as long as one keeps a receipt, these expenses can be reclaimed on travel insurance.
What documents did you need to take with you to the hospital?
Whilst the hospital had already received our daughter’s notes from the Val Thorens medical centre, we needed to show her passport and EHIC card and also fill in the travel insurance details. As we were at a public hospital, the majority of the operation cost would have been covered by EHIC and the remainder by travel insurance.
The EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) has been replaced since Brexit, with the GHIC (UK Global Health Insurance Card). These are free and work in the same way, and you can also use your EHIC until its expiry date. For more information, click here.
What can you expect at the hospital?
Our daughter was initially looked after in the paediatric area until the operation time was confirmed to be 3:00pm. By lunchtime she had been assigned a private ensuite room with a mountain view. We were able to wait there watching some of the Football World Cup Final whilst the operation took place. As it was a Sunday the hospital was quiet but there was a small café open for hot drinks and snacks.
We also popped out to the local pharmacy to purchase further prescribed medications and the special black boot to protect the ankle. When our daughter came back from surgery, she was offered an evening meal of chicken and polenta back in the room. Fortunately, she was then discharged and we were able to drive back to the apartment that evening.
How was your experience overall?
Being a long way from home with a child who has just had surgery under general anaesthetic is undoubtedly daunting. Nevertheless, in a mountain resort one has immediate access to superb medical treatment. For the remainder of the holiday our daughter was able to see a physio every day and we took her to the nurse for her anti-clotting injections and dressing changes. We were also able to go back to the medical centre with ad hoc requests such as a signature for a “fit to travel” form for Brittany Ferries. A few costs that needed to be paid directly at the time such as the physio bill were reclaimed through travel insurance after the holiday.
How was your journey home?
Whilst the insurance company had offered repatriation flights, we chose to continue with the holiday and by the end of the week our daughter was well enough to cope with the journey home by car and ferry. We staggered the drive over two days and Brittany Ferries gave us a special sticker for the car, enabling us to park next to the lift and our daughter could hobble to the cabin on crutches.
We love a happy ending...
Six months on from breaking her ankle, our daughter took part in a charity run and learned to surf on a Duke of Edinburgh residential. She is now looking forward to her next Peak Retreats ski holiday!