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What to do in a medical emergency
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What to do in a medical emergency

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As a foreigner in Switzerland, you might take it for granted that the number for medical emergencies is 112 - if you're European, 911 - if you're from the US or 000 if you're Australian. Switzerland, however, has its own medical emergency number, 144 and there is no centralised emergency number for any and all emergencies, so you will have to look for each number individually. 

This article is a short introduction to the Swiss medical emergency set up, so you know exactly how to handle any future medical emergencies.

For actual support in emergency situations, have a look at Hirslanden's Emergency Centers. 

Get info on Hirslanden Emergency Centers

How to proceed in a medical emergency?

For non life-threatening medical emergencies and depending on your health insurance coverage, your first point of contact should be your GP. They will be able to assess the importance of the emergency and refer you to a specialist or an emergency center and even call ahead to describe your situation, which helps with the hospital triage process. 

When your GP is not available, outside office hours or during weekends, for the same type of emergencies, there are, in each canton, specialised phone numbers for medical emergencies. They can help assess the situation and advise whether you should visit an emergency center or whether your medical problem can be otherwise solved. 

For life-threatening medical emergencies, keep calm and simply call 144 - the emergency ambulance number used throughout Switzerland. 

What happens if I call 112, the EU emergency number?

Unlike the one-number-serves-all emergency systems used by the USA and Canada (911), the UK (999) and Australia (000), Switzerland's three main emergency services of ambulance, police and fire each have a different number. However, anybody travelling through Europe can use the number 112, from which they will be transferred to the service required in that particular country.

In Switzerland, calling 112 will connect you to a central service where your enquiry will be directed to the appropriate emergency service.  

Make sure you keep your ID and health insurance card with you at all times

Other important documents you might want to have on you in a medical emergency are: list of medications, allergy ID card or blood group and diabetes ID card.

How much does it cost to call an ambulance in Switzerland? 

Calling an ambulance can lead to costs of CHF 1,000 or more, but do not let this hinder you in a critical situation. When calling an ambulance is justified, the emergency medical care is usually covered by Swiss medical insurance policies. Be prepared however, you might have to pay the entire ambulance invoice yourself, before you receive a refund from your insurer. 

On the bright side, the cost of the ambulance will usually be fully refunded by your insurer - and not invoiced to you as part of your health insurance franchise. 

Basic health insurance will contribute up to half of the ambulance costs if the patient is unable to travel via car or public transport. The exact costs depend on the health and accident insurance policies you hold. Supplementary insurance policies to fully cover ambulance costs are available.

In case of a life-threatening medical emergency, keep calm and call an ambulance at 144

Other emergency numbers you should remember:

Police

117


Fire Department

118


Helicopter Rescue (REGA)

1414


You can count on Hirslanden in any medical emergency

Hirslanden is the leading private hospital group and the largest medical network in Switzerland. Hirslanden operates 17 hospitals located in 11 Swiss cantons and has a total of 2,700 affiliated doctors and in-house physicians. 

Located all over Switzerland, the 14 Hirslanden Emergency centers are equipped with the latest diagnostic and therapeutic infrastructure.

Each emergency department has access to a network of highly regarded medical specialists. A treatment team will immediately be assembled to meet the patient's specific needs. Around the clock, 365 days a year.

Hirslanden's private hospital group status is not linked with a requirement for patients to hold private medical insurance. In emergency situations in particular, treatment is provided regardless of insurance status.

Get info on Hirslanden Emergency Centers