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HEALTH

Six things to know about visiting a doctor in Austria

Going to the doctor is a necessary part of living overseas, but expect to come across a few cultural quirks when going for a check up in Austria.

A doctor assesses a patient's lungs at a primary care centre in Stockholm.
Visiting a doctor in Austria might be different to your home country. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Austria is known for having an excellent medical system with easy access to specialists and a focus on preventative health care.

But there are some cultural quirks to get used to when it comes to visiting a doctor in Austria, and at times the experience might feel alien to that in your home country.

Here’s what you need to know.

FOR MEMBERS: Everything foreigners need to know about the Austrian healthcare system

Take money for optional extras

Social insurance in Austria covers most medical checks and procedures, but there are a few optional extras that require an additional charge.

For example, many gynaecologists carry out breast checks – but at an extra cost that often has to be paid in cash. 

Also, a visit to a skin specialist to check moles might not be fully covered by social insurance, which means paying for a percentage of the cost either up front or later.

This can be confusing, especially for people from countries like the UK where the cost of an appointment is covered by the National Health Service (NHS) and it’s rare to hand over cash to a doctor (unless at a private practice). 

If in doubt, ask your Hausarzt (GP) or a receptionist when making a booking to find out if there is an extra charge to pay, or stop off at the ATM on the way just in case.

READ MORE: More pay and longer holidays: How Austria hopes to attract 75,000 new nurses

Get ready to strip off

Visiting a doctor in Austria often involves a physical examination so expect to take off at least some clothing.

And if you make an appointment for a full medical, prepare to strip down to your bra and pants (for ladies) or boxer shorts (for men). 

For this reason, carefully consider your underwear choice before heading to the doctors and perhaps dig out your best pieces to avoid any embarrassment.

Be prepared to wait

Most Hausarzt practices in Austria operate on a drop-in basis during set times. 

The advantage of this system is that it’s possible to see a doctor on a Wednesday morning without an appointment – as long as you have time to wait.

But if you are in a rush, or have a strict schedule, then the drop in approach can be time consuming. Depending on when you arrive, it could mean a short wait of several minutes or up to an hour.

The best advice is to arrive just as the doors open to secure a place near the top of the queue.

READ ALSO: Austria makes quarantine announcement for monkeypox

Don’t be put off by a stern receptionist or doctor

Ask a group of international residents about their experience of going to the doctor in Austria and you will probably hear about how the bedside manner is “different”.

This is because some doctors, or even receptionists, have a stern and direct approach when dealing with patients, which can be intimidating for newcomers to the country.

Rest assured though, it’s nothing personal and medical care in Austria is usually thorough.

So if you come across a grumpy doctor, the best way to handle it is to either toughen up or find a different doctor.

Expect to be referred to a specialist

Visiting a Hausarzt in Austria is often like visiting a medical gatekeeper as they are responsible for referring patients to specialists.

Thankfully, due to the small population in Austria (just over nine million), an appointment with a specialist can be booked quickly, unlike in other countries where waiting times can be months or even years.

This means medical issues can be treated quickly by a specialist doctor, rather than trying to find the cause of an issue with a more generalised practitioner.

READ NEXT: EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s ‘tick vaccine’ and should you take it?

Look out for a tip jar

Yes, you might come across a tip jar at a doctor’s practice, usually in the form of a piggy bank in the reception area.

But don’t worry – you are not expected to tip your doctor in Austria. After all, you are already paying social insurance or private insurance premiums.

The tip jar is simply put out by the administration staff and the money is then used to buy coffee and cake for the office team.

There is also no pressure to leave a tip (or Trinkgeld in German) – only if you want to.

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HEALTH

WHO expects more monkeypox-related deaths in Europe

The World Health Organization's European office said Saturday that more monkeypox-related deaths can be expected, following reports of the first fatalities outside Africa, while stressing that severe complications were still be rare.

WHO expects more monkeypox-related deaths in Europe

“With the continued spread of monkeypox in Europe, we will expect to see more deaths,” Catherine Smallwood, Senior Emergency Officer at WHO Europe, said in a statement.

Smallwood emphasised that the goal needs to be “interrupting transmission quickly in Europe and stopping this outbreak”.

However, Smallwood stressed that in most cases the disease heals itself without the need for treatment.

“The notification of deaths due to monkeypox does not change our assessment of the outbreak in Europe. We know that although self-limiting in most cases, monkeypox can cause severe complications,” Smallwood noted.

The Spanish health ministry recorded a second monkeypox-related death on Saturday, a day after Spain and Brazil reported their first fatalities.

The announcements marked what are thought to be the first deaths linked to the current outbreak outside Africa.

Spanish authorities would not give the specific cause of death for the fatalities pending the outcome of an autopsy, while Brazilian authorities underlined that the man who died had “other serious conditions”.

“The usual reasons patients might require hospital care include help in managing pain, secondary infections, and in a small number of cases the need to manage life-threatening complications such as encephalitis,” Smallwood explained.

According to the WHO, more than 18,000 cases have been detected throughout the world outside of Africa since the beginning of May, with the majority of them in Europe.

The WHO last week declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency.

As cases surge globally, the WHO on Wednesday called on the group currently most affected by the virus — men who have sex with men — to limit their sexual partners.

Early signs of the disease include a high fever, swollen lymph glands and a chickenpox-like rash.

The disease usually heals by itself after two to three weeks, sometimes taking a month.

A smallpox vaccine from Danish drug maker Bavarian Nordic, marketed under the name Jynneos in the United States and Imvanex in Europe, has also been found to protect against monkeypox.

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