The third Health Tourism Forum meeting took place in the private Hospital Quirón on the afternoon of Wednesday 23rd November. A number of experts were there including Francisco Fiestras, the managing director of the Hospital Quirón, Pedro Heredia, lawyer from Heredia & Pellicer,  Victoria Abad, the international director, Antonio González, general director of the newspaper La Verdad, Eduardo Dolón the deputy of Tourism of the Diputación de Alicante and HELP Vega Baja president, Michele Masson.

The general message was that people should stay calm and not panic. It was pointed out that Spain is the second health provider of the UK and altogether collects almost 280 million euros for the healthcare it provides to British people. Spain, however, pays around four million euros for the health care of the Spanish who live in the UK.

The Forum was of the view that Brexit will not affect the right to health treatment for British residents and that an agreement will also be reached for tourists. Whatever happens there will still be care for emergencies, minors and pregnant women. Pedro Heredia offered assurances to British people resident in Spain. He believes that European legislation will ensure that expats’ rights will not be restricted or removed.

Michele Masson is a well-known figure within the British community in Spain and is constantly in contact with those who might be most affected. ‘It was a privilege to be asked to attend the debate with such a distinguished group of people,’ says Michele. ‘It was good to hear their views on the impact that Brexit may have on expats and tourists in the area.’

‘Prior to attending the meeting we asked people on the HELP Vega Baja Facebook page to send through any questions that they would like raised and the overwhelming response concerned healthcare. Generally, people are very worried that when the UK leaves the EU they will no longer be able to have access to healthcare here in Spain in the same way as they do now.’

Michele is aware that some people are returning to the UK and are in the process of putting their property on the market. The Forum discussed how lack of information has been a prime cause of the concern amongst British people and Francisco Fiestras advised that it was important to avoid making hasty decisions and preferred that there should be a campaign of information to ease the worries of the British tourists and residents.

Everyone agreed during the meeting that information was just as important here in Spain as in the UK and that it was important that everyone worked together to ‘dispel doubts’. ‘We will now go forward to discuss the day with other charities in the area,’ says Michele. ‘By working together, we will try to give assurance to those people who are anxious about the situation.’

‘Charities in the area work closely with the British Consulate and when required we will pass on concerns relating to Brexit and the impact it is having on the lives of our members and visitors, directly to the Consulate. This is the best way for the government to become aware of problems that occur and we have the assurance from the Consulate that whatever we pass on is taken to the next level.’

Michele is critical of the impact that the British press in the UK have in contributing to concerns with sensationalised stories and reminds people that they can telephone or visit charities such as HELP Vega Baja for more reliable sources of information than ‘Bob in the bar’. ‘

‘We only publish information that we know has come from a reliable source and is updated regularly. Please do not sit at home and worry – talk to us and we will do what we can to help,’ says Michele. If you would like more information about the debate and how you can make sure your voice is heard, contact their San Miguel Centre on 966 723 733 or email office@helpvegabaja.com

Suzanne O’Connell