Spanish health centres are health hazards


I MAKE no apologies for again drawing attention to a major health hazard infecting the Spanish Costas’ health centres. They are modern but staffed by employees who can’t manage good morning in English. They are totally unsuited for a region in which more than half their clients, of all nationalities, communicate in the English language.

Time will prove me right, my critics wrong. I foresee the time when you will walk into your medical centre to be greeted by English-speaking receptionists and see a doctor who will discuss your affairs in good English.


Critics remind me this is Spain. Yes but whenever I visit a bank, private hospital, chemist, optician, veterinary surgeon, dentist, I am commonly addressed in English. The same goes for hotels, restaurants and tourist information offices: How odd that health centres out of step. Is it a coincidence or could it be because doctors can put their mistakes down to mistranslation? Sloppiness rewarded; a well paid job without responsibility. As a doctor friend told me; in our profession we can bury our mistakes.

It has nothing to do with British nationality. English is an international language: It is patois-European in Latin script and Arabic numerals. It is spoken by more than 1,000 million people throughout the world; twice as many as there are Spanish speakers.

Most of the words in the English language are lifted from other languages. The reason the auxiliary language Esperanto was unsuccessful was because English had already done its job; it is universally understood.

In Britain people were furious that free translation was available to Poles visiting medical centres as we visit ours here. It was pointed out that health problems caused by language misunderstandings cost considerably more than the cost of translation.

My hospital doctor son knows my full health history; he tells me that I am being grossly under-prescribed by my Spanish doctor. Can you be sure you are receiving the right medication, even if there is an interpreter with you?

How many English speakers in Spain will receive unsuitable prescriptions with expensive consequences before the centime drops?

There are those who say, ‘This is Spain, learn Spanish’. What of millions of international English-speakers visiting Spain? Should they learn Spanish in case they need to visit a health centre when on holiday or business?

Stop ring-fencing doctors. The enormous financial and health costs associated with wrong diagnosis could be eliminated in a stroke by doing what the corner chemist does; give the job to applicants who can speak some English. Why not give health centre employees a 20% bonus if they can do so? The cost and more would be recovered by medical savings. Doctors would then have to be accountable.

They can afford it: Each year the UK government coughs up €3,500 for each British residencia yet the average cost per patient is just €1,200.

As Del Boy might say, in perfect English, ‘a nice little earner’ but it is the patients who pay the price in poor health.



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