Take the pain out of holiday hospitalisation

If you have a medical aid, it means that you are already making sure that you are covered in case of an emergency. When you go on holiday, it’s worth making sure that your medical aid will work for you if something out of the ordinary happens.

Nobody likes to think about the bad things that might happen – especially during the festive season – but taking a few extra precautions can mean that any unpleasant event will be a lot less traumatic. Before you pack your bags and head for the coast, here are some things you should be thinking about, in case of an emergency.

1. What documentation and information do you need?

It’s always a good idea to take your ID document and medical aid membership card on holiday with you. Even though neither of these is vital if you are checking in at a doctor or a hospital, they do make the process a lot less painful. Also, make sure you have your medical aid’s customer service or authorisation phone number with you, so that you don’t have to think of yet another process in an emergency.

2. Where are the doctors?

Find out where the nearest local doctor or decent hospitals are located at your holiday destination. It can be difficult to find a local resident to direct you with authority during the holiday season, so rather have the information at hand. And if your medical scheme works with approved practitioners, take particular care to identify and locate these beforehand.

3.  What medication do you need?

Small town pharmacies often have limited stock, so make a list of any medication you need and make sure you have enough to last you through the holiday, or at least have a prescription for what you need. It’s a shame to waste a day finding a doctor, getting a prescription and driving from pharmacy to pharmacy in pursuit of your particular brand of medication.

4. What adventures will you be having?

Contrary to what people believe, many medical schemes do cover your treatment if you are hurt while doing adventure sports. If you’re not certain, check with your medical scheme beforehand, and if you are engaging in any risky activities – stay safe.

5.  Travelling overseas?

Most medical schemes cover the costs of hospitalisation and getting you home if you are hurt or fall ill in the first three months of international travel. Thereafter, you will need additional travel insurance, which can be purchased as an add-on to the travel cover that automatically comes with your air ticket purchase by credit card. Make sure you have all the information and necessary documentation.

Most medical aids provide emergency transport within South Africa but only a small number provide this cover when traveling in any of the countries within the SADC region - Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Check whether your medical aid provides this service and remember to keep the international emergency number with you.

Fortunately, most people pass their holidays without incident, but a little advance planning can make all the difference when disaster strikes. And remember, the number one killer during the holiday season is road accidents so drive carefully and arrive alive.

(By Graham Anderson, Profmed Principal OfficerOctober 2010)

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