Where you need to go for help depends on where you live and your asylum status. In the Netherlands, you always consult your general practitioner first when you are ill. In addition to the general practitioner, there are specialised doctors in the Netherlands, for instance in hospitals. They know a lot about one part of the body, for instance the heart or the lungs, or about a particular disease. In addition to general practitioners and the doctors in hospitals, you can also go to a dentist, optician, physiotherapist, midwife, care home, youth care organisation, or the municipal public health service (GGD). For non-medical care, such as practical or psychosocial support, you can go to organisations for social work.
Residence in an asylum seekers' centre (AZC)
The asylum seekers’ centre offers medical care to all asylum seekers living there, regardless of their asylum status. At the asylum seekers’ centre, they can consult a general practitioner, midwife or youth care and they can be referred to a hospital. Asylum seekers have a right to the same medical care as Dutch people, are insured for this for free and do not have to pay anything. For young people up to the age of 18, treatment by a dentist is also paid for. For adults, dental treatment is paid for up to a maximum amount of 250 Euros per year.
All asylum seekers with a medical problem or question can drop in during the consultation hours at the centre. The first consultation is often with the doctor’s assistant. The doctor’s assistant decides if you need to see a nurse or general practitioner. The doctor’s assistant will make an appointment for you. You may also be referred to a hospital.
What to do if I do not have a residence permit?
Everyone who resides in the Netherlands for more than three months without a valid residence permit is considered “undocumented”. “Undocumented” people cannot insure themselves for the costs of healthcare, but have a right to medically necessary care.
Residence in a municipality (people who have been granted asylum)
Once an asylum seeker has been granted a residence permit, he/she is called a statushouder in Dutch. The central organisation for receiving asylum seekers (COA) assigns you to a municipality. After moving to the municipality you have to register for health insurance. In many municipalities, this is organised collectively. After this, you can register with a general practitioner. You pay your own insurance contributions and the excess of your health insurance (eigen risico), and sometimes also personal contributions towards the costs of medicines or treatment (eigen bijdrage).
What is medically necessary care?
The right to medical care is a basic right for everyone, even for people who do not have a residence permit. The right to medically necessary care is established in the law.
A doctor decides whether the medical care is necessary or not. Medically necessary care is more than the care that you would get at a hospital’s emergency department. It can be both curative and preventive care in a hospital or from a doctor. In principle, it consists of necessary and appropriate care. This includes a consultation for contraception or an abortion.
If you cannot pay the costs of healthcare, the doctor or care provider can declare the expenses at the central administration bureau (CAK). Some hospitals and pharmacies have contracts with the CAK. Ask your general practitioner to which specific hospital or which pharmacy you can go.
What should I do to get medically necessary care?
If you live in the Netherlands without a valid residence permit and without health insurance, you have a right to medically necessary care. For care for problems that are not life-threatening, you can contact a general practitioner or, in the evening or at the weekend, the out-of-hours GP service (huisartsenpost) in the area where you live. The general practitioner can refer you to a specialist at the hospital for further tests. You will receive a referral letter for this. In the case of accidents or life-threatening situations, you can go to the accident and emergency department at the hospital. Each hospital has such a department, you do not need a referral letter. If you need an ambulance, you can call the number 112 for free.
What are my rights if I have a residence permit?
If you have a residence permit, but still live in one of the asylum seekers’ centres, you can use the healthcare services at the centre.
When you move from the asylum seekers’ centre to a municipality, and you have registered with a health insurance provider, you receive a health insurance card. From then on, you can use the healthcare in your municipality, and register with a general practitioner.
What if a healthcare professional does not speak my language?
During your stay at the asylum seekers’ centre, interpreters are available for the communication with healthcare professionals.
What should you do if you have been granted asylum, live in a municipality and need an interpreter for a visit to the doctor or the hospital? In that case, the costs of an interpreter are paid by the healthcare provider. For this, the healthcare provider (general practitioner, hospital or other healthcare provider) usually has a special arrangement with an interpreter or translation service. As a statushouder you have a right to a telephone interpreter when you see your general practitioner for a consultation or treatment. You have this right up to 6 months after registering at the municipality. Until 1 May 2019 there is a special arrangement for general practitioners for requesting interpreting services by telephone for consultations with statushouders.
It is important to know that the interpreter:
- is bound by professional confidentiality;
- will speak in the first person (“I”);
- is neutral and translates everything that is said without adding, changing or leaving out information;
- is free of charge for the patient.