If you can’t stay on the line after calling 100(e.g. if you’re house is burning down), don’t hang up; the emergency service will trace your call within a few seconds and send an ambulance and police to the site. The national police number of Belgium is 101, which can also be called if you are in trouble. You don't have to call both of them, either one of those is enough. An ambulance will take you to the nearest hospital with an available emergency service. In the Brussels area you can call 105 for a Red Cross ambulance that will take you to the hospital of your choice. In either case, you’ll be billed for the ambulance journey. This charge isn’t reclaimable under the national health system, but you may be able to claim reimbursement under a private insurance plan if you have one.
You can also call the number 112, which is the emergency number from the European Union. This emergency number is active in every country that is a part of the EU.
If you need a doctor outside normal office hours, you should first try contacting your regular doctor, either at home or through his answering service. (Keep the number near your telephone.) It’s sensible to ask your doctor early on how emergencies ( cas d’urgence/spoedgeval) should be handled, as some medical systems and insurers insist on doctor authorisation for emergency services such as ambulances and hospital admissions in all except life-threatening situations. Not all hospitals have emergency facilities, and even those that do may not be open all the time. It’s obviously best to check these things before you actually need them.
Most emergency operators can speak English, although not necessarily fluently. In an emergency, no matter what language you’re using, try to remember to speak slowly and distinctly, giving the operator all the information needed, such as your exact location and what assistance is needed. It’s wise to practise giving your name, phone number and address and spelling critical details (like your street name) in the local language so as to avoid confusion – especially over the phone.
If you suffer from a condition that may need emergency treatment, you should carry a written description of the condition, the medicines you’re taking, including doses, and any other relevant details. This can be in English or the local language and will save you considerable time (and possibly your life) if a medical emergency strikes and you’re unable to speak for yourself.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in in Holland, Belgium & Luxembourg from Survival Books.