Family vactioner in the Donauspital
April 30, 2018 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Family member (from the U.S.) had an accident while on vacation and was taken to the Donauspital. Anything I should know about it?

A member of my family is in Vienna on a vacation. They fell and hurt their face, and they were taken to the hospital.

Is it a good hospital? Is there anything that an American expects from a hospital that they will not receive there, or anything they will get that might surprise them? Are there good services in the area for a non-injured family member who is keeping them company? Is there paperwork they should collect to help with insurance later? Who the hell pays for this??

Sorry, we're just a little spooked by the whole thing because of the distance, and we don't have much experience in the area (despite a lot of travel elsewhere), and have usually stayed healthy on trips in the past.

Thanks for any advice!
posted by wenestvedt to Travel & Transportation around Vienna, Austria (14 answers total)
Do they have travel insurance?
posted by peacheater at 7:56 AM on April 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yes, they should talk to their travel insurance
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:13 AM on April 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

Also, relax.
posted by flabdablet at 8:16 AM on April 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had a similar experience when traveling in Denmark, and went by taxi to emergency. The most expensive part was the taxi ride for me. I think they will receive excellent care at a fair price - without knowing the extent of the injury, it will be much less than it would here. They should keep copies of the bills (if any) and submit to their stateside insurance if they are covered (or travel insurance), but should be prepared to pay upfront. I have cousins in Austria and it is a good trauma hospital, so your family member will get excellent care.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 8:17 AM on April 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: They are on a package tour, and the operator is helping out; I will make sure they bring it up!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:17 AM on April 30, 2018

Best answer: I've received urgent medical care in three different European countries, none of them Austria. (DIsclaimer: I'm Canadian, although I don't think this has any ramifications in my experience.) Once, I paid upfront for a doctor's visit; once I paid after getting medical treatment on the way out, and the third time I was told I didn't have to pay anything but got a bill in the mail a few months after I got home. (I haven't paid that one and I think I lost the bill; sorry Spain.)

None of the bills were particularly expensive; an outpatient doctor's visit in Scotland was on the order of $100, an emergency room visit including x-rays in Slovenia was on the order of $200 (they gave me my xrays to keep, which was cool); the Spanish visit included an ambulance ride and was on the order of $500. I looked into travel insurance reimbursement for the Slovenian visit, and my understanding was that I needed to submit translations of my medical paperwork - I figured that it wasn't worth the hassle given the low cost of the care and the relative difficulty of translating Slovenian. Obviously keeping all paperwork is important for insurance purposes.

On my combined experience, your family member will likely be receiving excellent care from English-speaking medical staff. They'll probably be billed upfront, and the staff will be incredibly apologetic about that, like it's a really awkward faux pas to ask people receiving medical care to pay money.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:03 AM on April 30, 2018 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: flabdblet: Also, relax.

OK, I will admit that I thought you were rickrolling me with a Frankie Goes To Hollywood video, but I was wrong. That link goes to a ten-minute video called "My Healthcare Experience in Europe as an American."

It's a young man from California sharing a story about how he hurt his foot and sought care in a German hospital last August. He got care immediately, and it cost him very little. He is surprised by this, and wants to share his story.

Incidentslly, this search lead me to a Rick Steves blog post from 2012 where his readers share a loooong litany of positive stories about care they received as visitors in Europe.

I feel better now. Thank you, MeFites!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:57 AM on April 30, 2018 [8 favorites]

I live in Vienna.
Donauspital, also known as SMZ Ost, is Vienna's second largest hospital. Was your relative admitted to the hospital or only treated in the emergency room (confusingly called Ambulanz in German)? an ambulance is called Rettungswagen.

I work with visiting scholars from us and uk who are in Austria for up to a year, and any that have needed medical care have compared it favourably to care at home. Most doctors speak English, nurses however may not.
I think the level of care is high, and will not be made dependant on money.
There will be paper work, but the tour operator should be able to deal with it.

If they were admitted to stay the night, the worst part may be the food tbh, unless they are so seriously injured they were taken to intensive care?

One thing that is peculiar is that unless your relative calls you, you may be denied even basic info such as if they are at the hospital, due to European data protection law.
posted by 15L06 at 10:59 AM on April 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Vielen Dank, 15L06! Thank you for those details.

They arrived by ambulance and have stayed overnight in a room, and will stay two more days. I told them how to say "thank you" to the staff who care for them. :7)

The tour operator has a local representative so I al happy to know they will have help with their papers & documentation.

And American health information laws (HIPAA) are pretty strict as well, so the advent of GDPR in hospitals doesn't surprise me.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:25 PM on April 30, 2018

Most medical consultations should cost around 150 Euro (200 if there‘s x-ray involved).
There are only 3 emergency hospitals in Vienna, one of them is the SMZ Ost, all of them offer the same (good) basic level of service.
Negatives: Patients will find themselves getting shuttled back and forth with incomprehensible forms in their hands, creating a paper trail that destroys rainforests. Doctors will be brusque, things may get lost in translation (nurses). If you want or need something you need to speak up clearly about it, people tend to be a bit overworked and overlook stuff that isn‘t strictly necessary.
That‘s basically it.
Your relative will be fine.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:48 PM on April 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Update: Discharged this morning after a dentist contributed their expertise, and an eye doctor will need to do one last check. They'll catch up to their group today or tomorrow, I think, with two black eyes and a new perspective on health care and hospital food.

THANK YOU to everyone who contributed. Your information & reassurances meant a lot to my family and me this week, and brought us some helpful perspective when we were FREAKING OUT.

You guys are the Best of "The Best of the Web"!! *GROUP HUG*
posted by wenestvedt at 8:08 AM on May 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yay! Maybe your relative can weigh in about the Austrian hospital experience / difference to US themselves? I‘d be interested to hear their experience (plus, future askers wondering about the same question etc.)
posted by Omnomnom at 9:59 AM on May 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I talked the Relative recently, and they said that they were very pleased with the whole experience, aside from it having happened at all. :7)

They were in the hospital for I think three nights. (Maybe four?) The doctors and nurses spoke excellent English, though the official records are in German. Google Translate was a huge help here in the email correspondence with the hospital.

The care was very high quality, and respected Relative's wishes (little to no pain meds, for example, and a wish not to do cranial surgery to fix an already-broken nose).

Relative's Spouse was allowed to remain with them, though they booked themselves a hotel room to allow the patient to rest and also to get a change of scenery.

With the help of Google Translate, I was even able to complete the paperwork to get a VAT refund for some of the cost of the care!

The tour company's group guides stayed engaged throughout, and helped organized both of my relatives' return to the group (already hundreds of miles away), though they made their own rail reservations. When my relatives returned to their tour boat, they were met by their group guides who were very solicitous. I asked Relative specifically if they would use that company again, and they said they would; I also asked if they would take another foreign trip again, and they said without hesitation that they would.

I worked out the translation of "You should see the other guy!" and even included phonetic pronunciation, but the line went unused: the nurses were already quite friendly and didn't need winning over.

The injuries included a blown-out eye socket (so gross to read about), broken nose (with a warning not to blow the nose for fear the sinuses could rupture), a broken thumb, mashed teeth, cuts, black eyes, and more. What a mess! But if it had to happen, the emergency crew and hospital staff provided very good care, and doctors back in the U.S. praised the treatment as very good work.

We are grateful to the staff there for taking such good care of Relative in what was a very difficult and frightening time. Vielen Danke, Wien!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:33 AM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Follow-up: the Google Translate feature worked so well that we actually received the VAT refund check a couple of months later.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:13 PM on January 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

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