The healthcare system in Portugal

The healthcare system in Portugal

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If you're living in Portugal, heres's a guide to healthcare in Portugal and the documents you need to sign up for your Portuguese health card.

In Portugal, healthcare needs are met by the National Health Service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde). The service provides healthcare through health centres and public hospitals.

To register with the SNS you should stop by the health centre in your area of residence once you have moved to Portugal. You should bring with you a valid identity document, a social security beneficiary’s card and a residence permit. The health centre will give you a SNS card under your name and assign you to a family doctor.

Relatives of those that have contributed to the Portuguese social security system may also register with the SNS. For those over the age of 65, there are also subsidized prescriptions available.

Health centres will provide family medicine, public healthcare, nursing, vaccinations and several diagnostic tests. Hospitals will provide specialised consultations and emergency care.

Once registered with the SNS, you will pay a small charge for each appointment or treatment you receive. A regular appointment at a health centre costs around EUR 2 and an emergency consultation in a hospital costs around EUR 9.

If you do not qualify to register with the SNS, there are some private organisations and doctors you can register with. You will also need to apply for private health insurance.

Do not worry about the language as there are many international doctors available in the main cities. In Porto and Lisbon, there are British hospitals available. In rural areas, consultations may be limited to the Portuguese language, and hospitals are not as common.  

As an EU national, you are advised to bring your previous health insurance card as you can use it before you are issued a SNS card. A European Health Insurance Card will grant you access to state provided healthcare at a lower cost and sometimes for free. It will also cover you for treatment of an ongoing medical condition and for maternity care. If you have paid fees, you can claim reimbursements at the Administracão Regional de Saúde. There are several offices throughout Portugal and separate branches in Madeira and the Azores.

The cost of medicine is usually partly subsidized by the state. Medicines which are vital for treating specific illnesses are completely covered. Prescription medicine is mostly sold at pharmacies which can be recognised by the green cross, and a lot of medicines are also sold at supermarkets. Pharmacies can be found throughout the country and are usually open Monday to Friday from 9am to 1pm and then again from 3pm to 7pm. On weekends they are only open in the morning.

In case of an emergency, remember that the number to dial is 112.

Medical terms in Portuguese
Health centre: Centro de Saúde
Hospital: Hospital
Doctor: Médico
Medicine: Medicina
Pharmacy: Farmácia
Maternity: Maternidade
Emergency: Emergência

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1 Comment To This Article

  • Francisco posted:

    on 1st June 2014, 11:54:08 - Reply

    I am a portuguese citizen working outside. How can I get a health card.
    I will be 60 next year and may return to Portugal to retire or take a small job.