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Centro de Salud in Albir
More than 1600 residents that live in Albir have been forced to change doctors and health centre due to the "reorganization of of health care resources over the Summer period". The regional government has closed the Centro de Salud in Albir in the evenings and also removed one of the doctors and relocated him to the centre in Alfaz, forcing the residents to travel several kilometres from their homes to see a doctor.

Alfaz City Council do not understand the decision made by the Department of Health and the councillor for health, Vicenta Baldo has said it is "completely illogical" stressing that many of the residents are older retired people that will now have to make an arduous journey when not in the best of health. "We understand the public outrage" said Baldo who reported that they had already submitted a letter and requested a meeting with the Regional Department.

The population of Albir also swells over the summer months with the influx of visitors and so the 1600 figure quoted is actually far higher.  At present the health centre in Albir is open between 8am and 3pm - after those hours you have to travel to Alfaz del Pi if you need medical assistance. Many of the residents that live in Albir do not have cars therefore they will be forced to either wait for the number 10 bus, which is not ideal if you are already feeling poorly or take a taxi - which is costly. On that point remember that next Wednesday, 1st August all the white taxis are going on a 1 day strike across the whole of Spain - so definitely do not be ill on that day as the buses will also be extra busy!

The decision is a strange one given that 3 months ago they decided to re-open the health centre in the evenings after it was shut for a year due to public demand! Vicenta Baldo has complained that no one has even officially come to tell us of these changes. Instead of hiring extra doctors to cope over the summer numbers they have taken a doctor away!

Remember if you need to see a doctor you have to be registered and in possession of a SIP card. Alternatively, if you are on holiday and need to see a doctor then you MUST have your blue European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you otherwise you will be charged and then have to reclaim the money once back in the UK. Remember it is FREE to obtain one - just ensure it has not expired before coming away! You will also need to produce your passport just to prove that you are who it says on the card otherwise you could just borrow one.

As of 1st September in order to be covered on the Spanish Health Care System you have to be registered on the Social Security system. That means you either have to be in receipt of a pension or be paying into the system via your employer or as a registered self employed person paying your contributions - and its far more expensive here than in the UK.... it is aprox 270 euros per month! Those that have a SIP card currently but do NOT fall into any of the categories mentioned will find that when they present their cards at the Salud after 1st September it will not be valid. You will still be entitled to EMERGENCY treatment but will not be able to see a regular GP for any kind of non emergency treatment.

It is a time of severe cuts in Spain as austerity measures kick in, with health seemingly having an unfair share of them. Cuts backs have forced many complaints across the countries health departments and it is well documented about the pharmacist situation in the Valencian region.

Amanda at the reception
For those that feel they cannot make the journey there is actually a private English Medical Centre in the heart of Albir called "Family Medical Centre" which charges a very reasonable 38 euros for a consultation - telephone number which may be worth noting is 966 865 072. It is run by Amanda and Dawn - both lovely ex-pat girls and fully qualified nurses. As of 1st August they are also launching  a 24 hour call out service with an English speaking doctor which can come to your home or hotel if you are on holiday. The charge is 100 euros and they cover the following areas: Albir, Alfaz, Altea and Benidorm. The 24 hr number is 722 722 766.

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