Exclusive: By Giles Brown

AN angry British mother is considering legal action after her teenage son was denied urgent medical attention in Spain.

In a freak accident 15-year-old Josh Fryer Bloom, who was on holiday with his mother Samantha, impaled himself on a spiked fence and received a puncture wound to the testicle.

With a towel wrapped around his groin to stem the bleeding, they rushed to the Benalmadena A&E to seek treatment.

It was then that their nightmare began.

“As soon as we walked into the hospital we were met by a woman with a clipboard, who thrust a pile of papers in my face and demanded that I pay €250 straight away and then €200 for the triage.

“She added only then might they be able to treat him in three or four hours,” Londoner Samantha, 47, told the Olive Press.

“We were due to fly back to London that night, so I asked if they would be able to treat him quickly, but this woman said that unless I paid there and then, he wasn’t going to be treated at all.”

The situation then got worse when she attempted to pay by credit card, as the administrator doubted it was her son.

“Because my surname is Fryer and Josh has a doubled-barreled surname Fryer Bloom, the woman was claiming that he wasn’t my son and she wouldn´t take the card.

“She even started to question if Josh was even British, even though I was waving his passport in front of her”

With Josh in considerable pain and blood pouring out, it was at this point that she lost her temper.

Security was called as she argued with the woman.

“I told them that I didn’t expect to be ransomed but did expect my son to be treated because he was an EU citizen,” explained the graphic designer who was over in Spain with her son for a week’s break.

“The woman replied that they would refuse to treat him because she couldn’t be certain he was British and she didn’t like my attitude.

“She also refused to give us any numbers of private doctors or clinics in the area. It was a disgrace.”

In the end the pair were able to get a number of a private doctor from a friend’s girlfriend, who lives in Benalmadena.

“It took a couple of frantic calls but we found this doctor who treated Josh immediately for only €35,” she continued. “To say I was horrified would be an understatement.

“What is happening to the healthcare system here in Spain?”

They were then able to catch their flights back to London, where he went immediately to St Mary’s Paddington where he undertook further emergency treatment.

“I’m totally appalled by what happened” Samantha said. “I would expect this sort of thing to happen in the US, but not in the EU to a British citizen? And what would have happened if my son had been on his own?

“Would he have been left to suffer in pain until somebody paid for his treatment?

“I am now considering legal action against the hospital.”

60 COMMENTS

  1. I do hope they take legal action…. can you imagine it happening to a Spaniard in the UK… !!!???
    I Paid social for 13 years here, only when i became ill (4 months after i stopped paying due to lack of work) they said i had to pay as my social card was not up to date, i was slightly shocked !!
    I Went to the social office and said i had lived in this country 13 years and saw it as a privilege and to say thank you, i paid all my taxes, iva and social to your country never missing one payment, and this is how you treat us..!! I Said im better to keep all my money in my own pocket it seems.. , the social office worker just shrugged her shoulders..
    So thats what i do now..
    I will never pay social again, i still work, but now i just work for cash and have a private health plan, social comes to more than 3000 a year… private is 1200 with sanitas…how can i pay into something that is not there for you when you need it…
    I have 1 finger for the hacienda and social . .

  2. This incident does not mean this is the norm. On a side note I was always advised to have additional private insurance just in case. Some hospitals are public, some are private…did anyone ask if this was indeed a private hospital? Personally,I do believe if one is faced with a medical emergency then taking care of the patient should be first and foremost.
    As for the snide comments about Spaniards being jealous and envious…you know all Spaniards? wow! how about those foreigners who come to Spain and act like the world owes them.

  3. Dodgy Rog,
    good handle you’ve got – anyone with an EU passport is entitled to emergency treatment at least and you did’nt know that – not surprised.

    They would’nt take a credit card because it would mean ‘proof of payment’ plus of course they could’nt just put it straight in their pocket. The only time credit cards are acceptable in Spain is in supermarkets.

    So glad I left Spain – just back home from hospital(France)for a few days but have to return with with a ‘fluttering’ heart problem. First class nursing and very impressed with the comprehensive cleaning of everything, thank goodness I have my Carte Vitale.

    This boy’s mother should be informed that trying to sue in Spain will only make money for the lawyer who will soak her for every penny and achieve exactly – zero.

  4. @odgy Rodge, If you are visiting all you need is your EHIC to get emergency treatment, if the Spanish health system refuse to provide that emergency care it is they who are breaking the law………far too many comments appear on this subject implying that the British are trying to con the Spanish. Figures are freely available from HM Treasury showing how much is paid each year to the Spanish government to reimburse them for such emergency treatment.

  5. Nothing was mentioned, but did she have what used to be called the E111? If so, she has a right to emergency care here.

    I feel for her in this case, but largely, expats here do not pay into the system, nor do they have private insurance. In our village, Brits who have been here for 10 years and more still try to use their “E111” rights to get everyday health care.

  6. Even without a valid EHIC, emergency treatment would have been available for a person on holiday by law. A retrospective EHIC application can be made, where there is entitlement to health treatment, and since the person had a UK passport that should have been possible in this case.

    This “hospital” sounds like they’ve never heard of the Hippocratic Oath. As Peter correctly said above, the UK reimburses Spain on these occasions. As for people trying to use their UK EHIC whilst they are in Spain for day-to-day health treatments, Spain should be able to work out if such people are entitled to health treatment, or not, as the case may be. Ann, you said people “still try” to use the E111, but did they succeed? Whose fault is it if they did succeed?

  7. It must be a private hospital, there is no way a public hospital would even be able to charge for something in cash, I’m pretty sure of that. I would ask for someone to clarify this before making blanket comments about the Spanish health service and people. I have British friends in Benalmadena who are delighted with the health service here, and would actually prefer an operation here than in the UK!

  8. We have had to visit the emergencias on several occasions over the last few years as a visiting tourist. The EHIC card and passport has been all that is needed and the service provided is absolutely FIRST CLASS. Far more efficient than in a UK A&E department.

    However if you are resident in Spain, then you should not be using an EHIC card. Either pay into the social security or get private health insurance or have your entitlement transferred. We still have travel insurance in case of the need for an air ambulance or some other service that is not covered. If you don’t play by the rules don’t expect anything. As is usual, we are not in full possession of all the facts to make a judgment on the above story.

  9. Quite frankly, I find this story incredible. There must be more to it than meets the eye. Has anyone from this publication investigated the story by contacting the hospital/health centre involved? If not, why not? If so, why is this not reported ? Is this the typical great British press in action?

    As for some of the xenophobic comments on here, they defy belief – no, they don’t; I have seen it all before from a bunch of whingeing English, whose reason for residing here in this evil country is beyond me. Small wonder that the English are the most universally disliked nation on the planet.

    I am not blinkered and think that everything in Spain is rosy, but I am much happier here than in wonderful old Blighty. To say that the Spanish hate foreigners is a ludicrous statement. Since moving here we have met with nothing but kindness and neighbourliness.

    I apologise to the few decent, sensible posters on here. You know to mwhom my remarks are directed.

  10. Quite apart from issues of E.H.I.C. cards, private hospitals, travel insurance and any other “reasons” for refusing treatment, where is the humanity in all this? Surely, confronted with a young boy with bleeding mangled testicles, the first thing any health worker worth their salt should do is administer treatment and ask questions later.
    Stuart: Sorry to hear your ticker is acting up. Stay strong and keep positive. Good luck.

  11. Hi stefanjo,
    thanks for the regards. Not sure I would have had any problem if the terrible months of heat behind the sierras had’nt stopped me from jogging – I was up to 15K a day before leaving Galicia, just could’nt get into jogging at midnight like the Spanish – having nearly been killed by a young woman driver losing control of her car in Galicia in broad daylight, I felt it was like throwing the dice to jog in the dark, even with a dayglo vest.

    So much rubbish is spouted on this forum about various regs.

    Fact – you only get an EHIC IF you are legally resident in another EU country where you apply for, in my case – a Carte Vitale which gives me the same rights and obligations as a French citizen inside France.

    Fact – it can be used only in other EU countries and it is possible to claim back expenses which are incurred the same as a citizen of that particular country – this may prove to be like getting blood from a stone and you can’t rely on beaurocrats in any country having any idea about systems in any other EU country.

    Bill Stewart – another conflating Andalucia with Spain as whole. In Galicia the authorities who are all from old fascist families loathe foreigners. Visit Catalunya away from Barcelona and the locals will refuse to speak castillano – they will only speak Catalan.

    I have been lucky in having an excellant English doctor who is not working here for the money – a country doctor is not well paid here but he is married to a French nurse and just loves the quality of life.

    Being healthy all my life I decided not to take out supplementary health insurance to cover the 20% that the French system does’nt cover, I’m lucky that this particular health problem is over 30 days, so will get 100% covered by the State Social Security system.

    This top-up insurance for my age is about €840 per year, remember, insurance is a waste of money – until you need it.

    A day without cover of any kind in France will cost you over €1000 if staying in hospital.

    None of the facts I have quoted apply unless you are of pensionable age!

  12. Stuart Crawford,

    As you say, there is a load of rubbish spouted on here, as in all forums, internet or otherwise. I hardly think you have helped to clarify the situation with your first “Fact”, mixing EHIC use for non-residents with your Carte Vitale for residents of France, which appears to be the equivalent of my Tarjeta Sanitaria, issued by the Junta de Andalucía and which is also a smart card for repeat prescriptions and to consult my records, doctor appointments etc.

    I am unclear as to where you are now legally resident, but if things were as you describe them in Galicia,a region I have never visited, what on earth were you doing there. As for Cataluña, I have travelled extensively there and have at no time experienced any problem conversing in castEllano. I do not quite grasp why speaking catalan would be an indication of xenophobia- perhaps you are comparing it to the allegedly surly attitude of inhabitants of North Wales to the English?

    In any case, we have both strayed well off topic but hey, who cares!

  13. I am an American looking forward to retirement next year and my dream was to retire in Spain. I will be required to purchase health insurance and I have been quoted prices from insurance co. at $1000/mo and people living in Spain telling that health insurance for expiate is cheap in Spain. I am confused…. I understand about people in UK able to use EU health services.
    Also I find this article a little upsetting: I don’t know if retiring in Spain or any where else is advisable.
    It has been a dream to be in Spain since my first visit in 1995. That is when I fell in Love with the country, culture and people.

  14. Joe, insurance depends on your age and health when entering the system, but we find private insurance v reasonable here, and excellent. We pay far less than my family in the US, about €1200 per year for the two of us, for full coverage, including GP visits.

    Don’t be afraid to make the big step, just do your research up front. There are quote a few Americans on the Costa del Sol!

  15. @ Joe Kroplik.

    Don’t be put off, we have lived here for six years and recently have had quite a bit of contact with the Spanish health care system both for myself following accidents and for a friend who suffered from cancer, I found the service to be excellent. Yes as an American citizen you may have to provide your own private healthcare policy (don’t know what social agreements the USA has with Spain) visit the American Embassy website for Madrid I’m sure they will have useful info for you there. Finally if you are considering retiring to Spain make it he real Spain and not the plastic Costas, people are friendly look after each other and it’s cheaper. Good luck and if you want any further help contact me via this page and I will do what I can.

  16. Bill Stewart,

    I made it quite clear where I am living now – do pay attention.

    A European health card is only issued to EU people registered and living in another EU country, it cannot be obtained for vacation purposes – clear so far.

    Galicia – do you think we would have moved there if we knew the ‘state of play’ beforehand.

    ‘I do not know why speaking catalan is xenophobic’ speaking a language that is regional to a foreigner is plain stupid and clearly xenophobic. Just up the road from me is the Auvergne – no local would speak Auvergnat to me because they know that no outsider would know what they were talking about.

    This forum has saved many from experiencing the litany of corruption/descrimination by reading the copious articles on exactly these points. Had this forum been in existence before we moved – it would never have happened, we would have come straight to France.

    You are another that has been lucky in not encountering the ‘reality’ of life in Spain – maybe your luck will run out.- vamos a ver.

    I would like to correct one point about the EHIC – it can be obtained by anyone/age irrelevant who is legally living in another EU country.

    Many have made the point – if you are retired and are an inactive couch potato, lucky to find that your house is legal, not living in a wildfire area with, at present adequate water supplies (but for how long) then indeed you can enjoy the ‘lifestyle’.

    If however you need to earn a living – then everything changes.

    Re. the Spanish health system – it changed profoundly over 30 years and unfortunately it will change again for the worse – obviously Spanish TV is not showing the streams of nurses and doctors who have been made unemployed and have left for Germany/UK/US and Canada etc.

    In case anyone does’nt know – Spain is once again virtually bankrupt – how long can it support 30% unemployment. Rajoy can posture and try to blackmail more money from northern Europe but we in the north have had enough – cuidado, cuidado much cuidado por la futura.

  17. The EHIC is not for regular health care, so says the British consul anyway.

    Stewart is not the only expat who’s has soured on Spain, many in our village do. We love it, and feel you get out what you put in.

    I wouldn’t want to be a single woman living here, though!

    Also very much agree that inland is best, we live an hour inland in real Spain and find it wonderful.

  18. As others have pointed out, there is no mention of the boy having an EHIC and that may the key to this conundrum. (The EHIC replaced the E111 in 2006)
    “http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.aspx”

    Note that one condition that you have to fulfill when you apply for an EHIC is too give your National Insurance or NHS number (CHI number in Scotland or Health and Care Number in Northern Ireland.)

    Holding a British passport, or any other EU passport for that matter, provides no proof that you are entitled to health care in the country for which you have that passport. All it shows is that you are entitled to apply for the passport.

    In fact, you could have spent all your life living outside the EU and have private health care insurance, valid in that country alone.

    Yes, there is only one side of the story presented here. We don´t even know if the mother spoke any Spanish at all (Benalmadena is in Spain) or if the administrator spoke English, or how well.

    However, one thing is clear: “it was at this point that she lost her temper. Security was called as she argued with the woman.” Faced with someone who had lost their temper can be frightening and we have no idea of what really happened when the mother “lost her temper.”

    As for her claim that the administrator “thrust a pile of papers in (her) face”, I think it´s safe to assume that´s, at best, a loaded statement.

    The law in Andalucía is quite simple. The boy should have been offered emergency medical care.

    But the mother behaving in a way that security had to be called may have put the boy beyond that element of basic care.

    We simply don´t know all the facts, and it´s not up to the Olive Press to carry out any investigation.

  19. Stuart Crawford.

    A European health card is only issued to EU people registered and living in another EU country, it cannot be obtained for vacation purposes – clear so far

    Er, no actually.

    A UK. citizen and resident (e.g) applies for EHIC in UK and it is only valid for emergency treatment in another EU country while on holiday. A UK pensioner expat, living in Spain, formerly received his EHIC from the Spanish social security office, but in recent years the rules have changed. He now has to apply to the country which pays his state pension, i.e UK.

    BTW I am much too old to have a GCSE. I guess my Scottish Higher Leaving Certificate would be worthless in your eyes.

  20. I am certain that this lady was not in the new CHARE public hospital in Benalmadena, but in the private Xanit hospital next door – I know both very well through personal and client use, and the state hospital would never ask for cash up front, and doesn’t thrust a pile of papers and a clipboard in front of you as soon as you walk in – its all computerised, nor would they refuse treatment – they would always treat and invoice later, whether direct to the patient or to HMRC as mentioned above – Xanit however does exactly as she describes whether you are in receipt of the correct insurance docs or not, they even use a clipboard! Both are wonderful hospitals, and treatment is outstanding, its very tiring to hear the constant negativity about Spanish hospitals which is often based on people just not having the correct facts/insurance/EHIC/checking where they are being taken!

  21. Lindsay, like Bill Stewart, I am grateful for your contribution. Your knowledge of both hospitals is particularly valued.

    For what it is worth, I have lived in Andalucía since 2007 and only use the state health system. I find it little short of perfect, certainly much better than the care I used to get under the NHS system when I lived in England.

    I am British, by the way. I used to think the NHS was the best health system in the world.

  22. Private hospitals don’t generally have A&E departments, so that gives a clue to the type of hospital this was.

    “The law in Andalucía is quite simple. The boy should have been offered emergency medical care.”

    Glad you agree that the treatment of this boy was incorrect Tony. That’s all that matters. The Olive Press article is poor since it omits many key basic facts from the story.

  23. Joe Kroplik,

    you can adopt the most sensible approach of all – don’t sell up at home but rent a house or apartment in the part of Spain that appeals to you. By all means buy a car there and visit all parts of Spain.

    There are far too many Brit idiots that mouth of about ‘Spain’ when their experience of this big country is one tiny area. It is a diverse country with many different climates of which many are not sunny for much of the year.

    There is no typical ‘Spanish’ – there are Celts/Euskadi/Catalans/Semites and in the centre they are nearly all Germanics.

    Take your time and see it all – Galicians are nothing like the Semites (Arab/Jewish) of Andalucia, nor is the diet.

    When you are certain you like a particular part of Spain, then make the move, even then renting does’nt commit your capital.

    I would also study the history of Spain, it will give you a good idea about the actual mentality of it’s various peoples

    As an American you would’nt compare the people of the East Coast with those in California or Texas would you?

    There is research (vital) and then there is the reality you will find and rarely do they coincide – make it an adventure you will enjoy.

  24. Private hospitals don’t generally have A&E departments, so that gives a clue to the type of hospital this was.

    “The law in Andalucía is quite simple. The boy should have been offered emergency medical care.”

    Glad you agree that the treatment of this boy was incorrect Tony. That’s all that matters. The Olive Press article is lacking since it omits many basic facts from the story.

  25. “Glad you agree that the treatment of this boy was incorrect Tony.”

    Fred, please read my post again.

    I never said that that the boy´s treatment was “incorrect”. What I wrote was quite different to that.

    “But the mother behaving in a way that security had to be called may have put the boy beyond that element of basic care.”

  26. Ann, Alex, Stuart and Peter,
    Thank you all for responding to my concerns and giving me a ray of Hope for a move to Spain. Your individual comments were very informative and supportive on a choice of leaving my home for a new home.
    I do wish that the arguments between the Spanish and Brits would stop! I believe that it is instigated by others to sell news and it only causes HATE. And this will be a reason for this statement to never be posted or altered.
    Peter, I would appreciate future correspondence.
    Thank You All and Please don’t Hate but work together to make your lives better.

  27. @Peter, you wrote “The boy should have been offered emergency medical care”. But, he wasn’t. That is the basis of the entire story. He went elsewhere, to a private doctor, as the original hospital would not treat his emergency injury. Did you read the story?

    I am sure the mother only became desperate to the point of anger because her son was injured and the hospital would not treat him. Why did they not deal with the injury immediately? Is that not what A&E departments primary function is? When the boy arrived he was bleeding badly, and should have been ushered in for treatment. If that had happened, then none of the other issues with his mother would have arisen.

    I’m sure that if you arrived in A&E and you were not given treatment for a serious injury, you would become frustrated too. Or are you unique? Health treatment in Spain is very good, and I have personal experience with it, but we are not talking about the health system in general terms here; we are talking about this particular incident.

    So Tony, do you think Josh should have got immediate treatment in an A&E department of a hospital? I can’t think of anyone who would say not, but with you, who knows.

  28. @Lindsay, thanks for the info. Whether the hospital was private or not, in an emergency, they should take reasonable steps to provide treatment. If the hospital did that then the mother would clearly not have become so frustrated that security were called. Do you think Josh got outstanding treatment when we arrived? A lot of mention has been made of the mother, but she was not injured. He was.

  29. @J Kropiik, I couldn’t agree with your last post even more. Please don’t let the constant negativity stop you from your dream of coming to Spain. It sounds like you are doing your home work and know realistically what you have to look forward to… I think it’s that being Americans we had/have to deal with so much more paperwork and visa clearances than being part of EU. In any event, good luck with finding a place that suits you and happy upcoming retirement.

  30. “I am SURE (my emphasis) the mother only became desperate to the point of anger because her son was injured and the hospital would not treat him.”

    Fred, what makes so “sure” about that? Were you there at the time? If not, that is pure speculation on your part.

    All we have is one side of the story, the mother´s. If you want to believe that, go ahead. But I suggest you do that privately.

  31. Tony, do you think Josh should have got immediate treatment in an A&E department of a hospital? It’s a simple question. I can answer, and I would say YES (my emphasis). Why can’t you answer that simple point, Tony?

  32. @Tony, the things you mention do not stop someone from getting emergency treatment. If someone is brought in to A&E, say from a serious car accident, they do not say ‘show us an EHIC or we won’t treat you’.

    Despite the lack of information in the article, it’s actually a very straightforward case, and so it is baffling why you cannot say if you think Josh should have been given the emergency treatment he so urgently needed. Can you address that specific point? This is getting like the Michael Howard interview on Newsnight lol.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.