If you are looking for an English-speaking doctor (including a paediatrician, dentist, specialist …), a good source of latest information are the two useful Facebook groups: Expats in Gent and Gentse Spruiten. The latter one is a good mix of foreign expats and local, so a great information source from both sides. Use the search function of each group to look for already published suggestions, as these kinds of questions pop up regularly.
Seeing a GP
You are free to choose your GP (huisarts) in Belgium. If you so wish, you can even see more than one GP. There is no special procedure for changing your personal physician. However, if you decide you want to stay with your doctor, you can ask to have your general medical file (globaal medisch dossier, GMD) opened with them. This will give you some more reimbursement from your insurance.
For some people, registering with a community health centre (wijkgezondheidscentrum) might be an interesting option. A community health centre is a medical cooperative of several doctors and specialists (including nurses and physiotherapists), where you won’t have to pay per visit once you register, because the centre receives regular payments directly from health insurance companies for each registered patient. However, you will always have to use the services of the centre. You will not be reimbursed by your health insurance if you see another GP or a specialist outside of the centre (if such a specialist is part of the centre). Find your nearest wijkgezondheidscentrum in Gent.
Seeing a specialist
Seeing a specialist (including treatment specialists, like physical therapists etc.) in Belgium is much easier than in several other countries. In fact, Belgium scores really well on accessibility of specialist health care. The waiting periods are relatively short and the services are not too expensive. For many specialists, you do not even need a referral from your GP, however, you will be reimbursed more by your insurance if you do have it.
Specialists are usually affiliated with hospitals (this is very common for gynaecologists, even when they have their own practice), but they also have their own private (or group) practices.
Seeing a dentist
Dental care is not really covered by Belgian insurance, beyond some basic reimbursement. One of the conditions to be eligible for this basic reimbursement is that you have to have at least one annual check up by your dentist. Additionally, most health insurance companies also offer top-up dental insurance packages. Read TheSquare’s Visiting a dentist in Ghent page to find out more.
Emergency health care
In an emergency situation call 112, which is actually the common European emergency number, so good to remember if your travel a lot around the EU. The operators speak English as well.
Belgian doctors do not have standardised working hours and you should check with your own GP to see what time they can be reached. A typical doctor’s schedule might be anything from something like Mon, Tue, Thu, from 8am-10am and 6pm-8pm, to something like Mon-Fr 9am-5pm. If you doctor is working in a group practice, you can choose to see one of his fellow practitioners if you are in a hurry.
During the weekends and holidays you can always contact the doctor on duty (dokter van wacht). In Ghent, you can find them at three duty posts scattered around the city. There is usually at least one GP and one paediatrician present. You can also always call the general medical information line for information on doctors on duty: 09 236 50 00.
Beyond that, Belgians commonly use A&E services (emergency room, or spoed) for less urgent matters (for example, when they have a flu), although this practice is being actively discouraged. You could even be forced to pay a fine if you use the emergency services for non-urgent cases. A&E services are found at all main hospitals in Ghent.
It is also possible to call the duty doctor number and ask the doctor to make a house call. Prepare a wad of bills for that though, as you will be charged extra (this could be as much as 90 EUR in cash). And don’t expect much reimbursement for that from your insurance.
If you need medicines outside of working hours of pharmacies, look up your nearest pharmacy on duty online (9am-10pm) or call 0903 99 000 (1.50eur /min). You will need a doctor’s prescription if you want to get medicines from on-duty pharmacy and a supplement will be charged.
Healthcare for children and costs
The healthcare cover for children and pregnant women has its own set of rules, which we explain in separate posts.
Your basic, obligatory, health insurance (ziekteverzekering) will cover about 75 % of your medical costs for any non-hospital treatments. Additionally, it will cover all the standard rates of hospital treatments, but no extra supplements. Since hospital bills can be quite high, most people in Belgium choose for additional hospitalisation insurance (hospitalisatieverzekering). Read all about health insurance, and costs and reimbursements for healthcare in Belgium.
Last updated: October, 2016
Note: the information on this page is based on the information found on official government and local websites, and on the experience of the authors. While we have done our best to make sure it is accurate, rules and regulations change and each individual situation might be different, so it is always a good idea to check with appropriate authorities for the latest information. Consequently, the authors do not assume any responsibility or liability for any issues or damages stemming from the use of the information on this website.