(It won't be like this... but the Google Image Search was too awesome. Illustration via Pulp International)
I recently was under the weather, and being the stubborn (and cheap) "independent lady" that I am, I told myself it would just go away on its own and pretty much ignored it. I get sick about once a year so I really didn't think it would amount to anything. But guess what? One night I came down with a crazy fever that transformed the next morning into chills and muscle fatigue and weakness. I was pretty fed up with feeling sick and I had nothing else to do, so I told myself I would take care of it that very day!
But I had no idea how to go about it. In the States I'd just look up whatever doctor was on my insurance plan and head in. Here, I have travelers' health insurance, but it basically only covers me if I'm obviously dying or my arm has been severed. I didn't think I was so bad off to go to a hospital, and I was nervous about the language barrier. I can speak some French, but am by no means fluent, and this was one situation wherein I really needed to be understood. I called several doctors on the American Embassy's list of English-speaking doctors, but wouldn't be able to get in for at least a day or two. Well, I had made a goal for that day and I was going to achieve it. Also, I felt worse than I had in years and was actually worried. So I started Googling, and that's when I found out about the Cosem Centre de Santé.
With three locations in Paris, these walk-in health centers have doctors of every imaginable specialty, from generalists to dentists to psychologists and everything in between. They even have on-site laboratories for blood and urine tests. You can just come in without an appointment and be seen by a doctor - but there are some steps to know before you go, which I found out the hard way and which I will provide to you as a community service should you ever need it in your Paris travels.
1) Getting In. Though you don't have to have an appointment, per se, you do have to arrange a time to be seen. I guess that's technically an appointment. But you can almost definitely be seen same-day, depending on the specialty and doctors available. Either call first to arrange a time, or, when you get there, find one of the white phones in the lobby to make a free call to a scheduler. You just pick up the phone and there's someone on the other end. Prepare your French as they may or may not speak English. You can also go into the room marked Sans Rendez-Vous and they will set up an appointment for you and tell you where to go.
2) - Checking In. If you called to set up your appointment, when you arrive you should find either the room marked Accueil or Sans Rendez-Vous and inquire about where to go. They will check you in, take your name, etc. and payment (more about that in a sec) and give you a piece of paper telling you which floor to go to, your number to be called, which doctor will see you and the room that doctor will call you from.
3) Getting Seen. Go to your assigned floor and check out the TV monitors telling you which numbers are being called by which doctors. Don't panic if you're about 100 numbers away - like most bureaucratic French processes, there is seemingly no logic, but they do have a system. Just pay attention so you don't miss your name and number being called. For a generalist I waited about 15 minutes; for a specialist I made an appointment for two hours later and then waited about a half hour after I got there.
I saw two doctors, and both were kind and friendly and listened to me intently. One of the doctors I saw spoke English, and the follow-up doctor two days later didn't, so it's pretty much a crap shoot. You can try to request one, but to be on the safe side I was Google Translating key terms beforehand in order to make sure my most severe symptoms would be understood. And you know what? In a situation like that, you really find out that you know more than you thought you did.
4) Payment. Here's the kicker. To see a generalist if you are uninsured, you'll pay about 28€. Read that number again! And a specialist will run you about 32€. I will refrain from going down the rabbit hole of talking about the American health system for the uninsured, but let's just say that it's pretty f*cking impressive that I could be seen by a doctor, same-day, and take care of my ailment in a clean and friendly (really!) environment for less money than it would cost to even have a medium-nice dinner out in Paris, and even less than my copay was to see a doctor with health insurance in America.
If you find yourself ailing while you're in Paris but not so bad to go to the hospital, the walk-in clinics of Cosem Centres de Santé are a very good option indeed. And just in case you need it, here are some further medical resources in Paris:
- Cosem Centre de Santé
- American Embassy list of English-speaking doctors (PDF downloadable under "Doctors")
- SOS Medecin (house-call doctors) or call 01 47 07 77 77
- Emergency Medical Attention (French equivalent of 911) 15 or 01 45 67 50 50
- Emergency number when calling from a cell phone : 112
Take care a' you!