First Things First – Health Insurance Policies.
It is very advisable to see if your insurance policies would cover you if you are travelling to Poland or would be working there. You may want to secure an EHIC card, or a provisional replacement certificate. Remember to keep it with you at all times, together with a valid ID and your passport.
Most treatments in Poland are for free, unless you need a treatment that is outside prescription or if you are asking for extra services. Also, keep in mind that you do not get any of the fees paid reimbursed. If you had been charged for treatment, you can apply for reimbursement at your insurance organisation once you get home.
The citizens of Albania, Tunisia, Russia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia have the right to access certain health care services financed from public funds on the basis of agreements signed by these states with Poland.
If you are in Poland as a tourist, you are entitled to free medical care only if you purchased travel medical insurance. Otherwise, you’ll have pay the treatment costs by yourself.
If you want to visit health care centres, being insured by the National Health Fund (Narodowy Fundusz Zdrowia) is a must. A holder of an NFZ insurance may also use the services of private medical facilities, under the condition that these facilities are contracted by the National Health Fund.
If you do not want to be insured by the NFZ, you can use a private health insurance by purchasing a subscription, or paying a monthly fee, which covers a package of specific medical services. You can receive more detailed information from the individual private insurance companies (e.g. PZU, Polmed, LuxMed, SwissMed etc.).
Going to a Doctor
If you are a tourist and you want to visit a general practitioner (GP), you have to ask for internista when you reach the health care centre. All you need is an ID and the amount of money needed for a visit (the total cost should not exceed 100 PLN). You do not need to be insured by the National Health Fund or any private insurance company.
If you need to visit a GP, opt to ask for a lekarz pierwszego kontaktu or internista. Do not worry about the language barrier – most doctors in Poland speak at least basic English and would be able to administer the proper treatment to you. You can usually find doctors through the embassy, a database of doctors in Poland – Lekarze Specjaliści, or through recommendations.
You may notice that there will be a sign saying Narodowy Fundusz Zdrowia or NFZ by the entrance to a clinic. This means that they operate under the state system and that they are approved practitioners, you will need to be insured by the NFZ. Keep in mind that you need to be referred by a doctor for any treatment in the hospital, except in emergencies.
You can get prescriptions from any doctor attending to you. If you are insured by the National Health Fund or a private insurance company, getting prescriptions will not cost you extra money. But, if you are a visitor in Poland and you do not have insurance, you will have to pay for them. Prescription drugs can be partially reimbursed (they will be cheaper), or they can be totally free. The drugs you need will also be free of charge whenever you stay in hospital or other surgery providing 24-hour care.
Since 1st January 2012, every pharmacy (apteka) has had to sell drugs at the same price. It is interesting to note that it is possible to get a cheaper equivalent of some drugs prescribed by a doctor. This information can be obtained from your local pharmacist.
Please note that prescription medications must be purchased within 30 days of the date of issuing the prescription; in the case of antibiotics, the deadline is 7 days.
Keep in mind that most drugs in Poland do not have dosage instructions on their packages. While most pharmacists can provide that information, they are less likely to speak English and may provide you with the Polish equivalent of the measurements that you need. To be safe, get dosage information from your doctor instead.
If you need to get drugs and medical supplies outside clinic hours (usually 08.00 to 18.00 during weekdays), you can get them from an Apteka Dyżurna, which is a duty pharmacy. You can check which pharmacy is on call on a given day at any local pharmacy, in local newspapers, or, if you do not have a newspaper handy, you can get a full list online by visiting Apteki. You can also check whether they have the medication you need.
Getting an AmbulanceWhether you are insured or not, you have right to be given medical assistance without being charged for it. The decision whether to transport the patient by ambulance or not is made by a doctor, it is made by emergency service telephonists. They also assess whether the transport will be free of charge.
If a person is able to move on their own, they require assistance while using public transport, or a vehicle specially adapted for the disabled, the NFZ (Narodowy Fundusz Zdrowia) covers only 40% of the ambulance transport cost. Otherwise, the total cost is covered.
What to Call During Emergencies
In case of an emergency, you can call the pan-European emergency number 112 or 999 on your mobile phone free of charge.
Usually, it is the karetka or ambulans that would take you to the nearest hospital.
|Polish phrase||Phonetic transcription (IPA)||English translation|
|Mam alergię na||/mãm aˈlɛrʲɟjɛ na/||I am allergic to|
|Muszę jechać do szpitala||/ˈmuʃɛ ˈjɛxaʨ̑ dɔ ˈʃpʲitala/||I need a hospital|
|Potrzebuję lekarza||/pɔtʂɛbuje lekaʐa/||I need a doctor|
|Potrzebuję karetki||/pɔtʂɛbuje karɛtki/||I need an ambulance|
|Zdarzył się wypadek||/ˈzdaʒɨw ɕɛ vɨˈpadɛk/||There’s been an accident|