What you should know about hospitals and chemists in Belgium

Belgium has a wide choice of hospitals and clinics with a total of 141 public and private general hospitals managed by universities, religious organisations, health insurance funds or social welfare organisations.

Different types of hospitals

The hospitals which are open 24/7, can be identified by a sign showing a white H on a blue background. Large hospitals have an emergency centre, a maternity ward and sections dedicated to the treatment of children and the elderly. Smaller, specialised hospitals only offer care for specific target groups, such as patients with neurological disorders. Elderly people can also find care adapted to their needs in geriatric hospitals.

You can also be referred to a day hospital, where you receive specific surgery and are allowed to return home the same day, under certain conditions. At polyclinics, specialists offer consultations or minor treatments, without the need for an overnight stay. Both day hospitals and polyclinics are usually departments of a general hospital. Remember, hospital stays are not free and will need to be reimbursed by your Belgian health insurance company.


Chemists are ubiquitous in Belgium – look for the green cross sign. Most are open Monday to Friday and often on Saturday, with a number providing emergency 24/7 cover on a rota basis. You can find this information in local and free papers, or in the window of your local pharmacy. Medicines available without prescription are not refunded by your insurance companies.

Is your medication reimbursable?

Prescriptions must be paid for on collection and are generally partly reimbursed. Chemists may issue a receipt for reimbursement purposes if you are unable to provide information about your health insurance or your national insurance number. In this case you can send the receipt to your insurance company for reimbursement.

Be prepared for generic medicine

The Belgian government has a policy of encouraging doctors to prescribe generic medicines which contain exactly the same properties as the original medicines but are cheaper. Chemists are obliged now to sell a generic medicine, unless the GP has specifically written on the prescription that the medicine should not be substituted for another. Pharmacies also sell baby, diet and health products as well as hair and skincare items.

(Photocredits: S. Buissinne)


Categories:   Health


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