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Emergency room in Geneva, a bad experience

pronto soccorso a ginevra

I recently had to go to the emergency room in Geneva. A bad experience I want to share with you. I won’t say the name of the hospital where I was treated, but you can write me if you want to know it.

I practice Linguistic Empathy and I expect you to do the same. Please bear with me if my English is not perfect.


A while ago I was very sick and needed to go to the emergency room in Geneva, the city where I have been living since last October.

I did not know anything about local health structures, so I chose a hospital close to my home, which had good comments on the Internet.

The first thing the secretary at the reception asked me, was if I could leave a deposit of 530 CHF. She explained they would send the invoice at home after the treatment: in case it was higher than the deposit, I would go to the hospital and pay the difference; in case of credit for me, I would give them a bank account where they could pay the balance.

I was  happy with the way they took care of me, and I went home satisfied of my first (and hopefully last) experience with the emergency room in Geneva. I started waiting for the results of the test I had undergone, and for my invoice.

After five days of silence, I went to the hospital to ask for news about my results. The doctor kept the results sheet close to her bosom and told me everything was negative, but they could not give me the paper (why? who knows!) to take home. I would only receive the invoice, which was to arrive by snail mail soon.

I felt a bit disappointed that they had not called me with the results as promised. I waited for my invoice, but after two weeks no sign of it. I went back to the emergency room, and asked what was going on with my 530 CHF they were holding to ransom.

pronto soccorso a ginevraThe man at the invoice department checked my dossier and told me everything was all right. The lab had already given the results (thank you) but the invoice had not been issued yet.

I started feeling a trifle irritated. Not only because the proverbial Swiss efficiency was miserably failing at my eyes, but also and foremost because I thought it incredibly unjust they kept my money without telling me how much the medical services had costed.

The official explanation I was given was that they have to wait one month before issuing the invoice, in case the patient has any complaint (about what? Again, who knows!). The reason they would not say confirmed what I heard by so many people who know Switzerland much more than I do: money is king and that’s that.

One and a half month after my visit to the emergency room, no sign whatsoever of my invoice. I went back to the hospital (I’d rather deal about these things in person, if I can) and they told me it was really strange, the accountancy department had not issued the invoice yet. I got angry and told them I needed to start the reimbursement practice and that I was not even sure about how long I’ll remain in Switzerland. I definitely did not want to leave without knowing how much it costed me to talk five minutes with a doctor and leave a bit of my urine.

The guy at the invoicing department asked for my e-mail address, stating that it will all be easier and faster to do everything by e-mail.

Two days after I received a message that told me that the total cost of my visit is (are you sitting down? Luckily I was) 479,75 CHF. It added that I have to provide an endless quantity of documents to have the 50,25 CHF balance back. No invoice in sight.

I replied asking to kindly send it to me. No answer whatsoever for another three days.

At that point I called on the phone, just to hear that invoices can only be sent by snail mail, and they would send mine that same day.

The day after I got the invoice. Here are the details:

emergency room in geneva


I want to point out that I have never been visited with the vaginal speculum Cusco UU métal moyen 100x25mm (I have actually not been physically examined at all). In Italy I pay 8 euros for the same test that is marked at 110 CHF, but I don’t want to question that. What I want to highlight is the line that explains that writing an 11 to 35 lines report costs me 39,29 CHF (report I could not even set my eyes on), let alone 35,71 CHF to study my very complicated dossier!

I cannot explain how deeply this experience has affected me. It has certainly marked my relationship with my host city. Though being perfectly aware that money is needed, medical assistance for me has to do with humanity. And honestly, I see nothing human in the way they have treated me.


Claudia Landini
March 2019
Photos: Pixabay

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