Who or what is the 'Beobachter'?

'Beobachter' [English: 'Observer'] is a Swiss magazine that has been in circulation since 1927. It has over 660,000 readers and is published fortnightly. 'Beobachter' provides in-depth reports on current issues that affect Switzerland. It focuses on providing legal advice to its subscribers on various everyday issues. 'Beobachter' offers you this information in your own language, free of charge, on this page.

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Who can I contact if I need medical help immediately after my arrival?

There are medical professionals (Medic-Help) working at the reception and procedure centres who you can contact. If you feel ill, need medication or are pregnant, these professionals will help you or refer you to a doctor or hospital. If the Medic-Help point is closed, you can contact someone from the support or security staff. A list of where the federal asylum centres are located can be found on the website of the State Secretariat for Migration SEM.

Whom can I contact if I need medical help later on?

In Switzerland, the first point of contact for a medical concern is usually a general practitioner. This person knows his/her patients and can refer them to other specialists or to a hospital if necessary. If you do not know which doctor to contact, ask at the social welfare office in your municipality.

The exception is medical emergencies. If you have a medical emergency, call 144. For non-life-threatening emergencies, it is best to go to an emergency practice ("Permanence") or the emergency ward of a hospital (more on emergencies).

The websites medic-help.ch of the Federal Office of Public Health and migesplus.ch of the Swiss Red Cross also provide a wealth of useful information on health. The information is also available in Ukrainian and Russian.

You can also get free medical advice from the Medgate hotline by calling +41 58 387 77 20. The doctors speak German and English, and an internal translation service in Ukrainian and Russian is also available from Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm.

Can I call an ambulance if I am ill and need medical advice?

No. Unlike in Ukraine, ambulances in Switzerland are only called for medical emergencies. For example, if a person can no longer go to the doctor by themselves or if they are in a life-threatening condition. For all other medical questions, contact a doctor first. If you do not know which doctor to contact, it is best to contact the social welfare office in your place of residence. There you will find out whether you are free to choose your doctor, whether you should go to a specific doctor or whether you have to contact a doctor's hotline beforehand.

Whom do I contact in a medical emergency?

In acute emergencies, call the emergency number 144. This service is available 24/7. The staff will decide what to do next. This number is free of charge. For non-life-threatening emergencies, it is best to go to an emergency practice ("Permanence") or the emergency ward of a hospital. If you already have health insurance, the health insurance company will pay for the emergency treatment. If you do not yet have health insurance and cannot cover the costs yourself, they will be covered by emergency aid. The application to cover the costs incurred must be submitted by the medical service provider, i.e. the attending doctor.

Why do I need health insurance and how do I get it?

Anyone moving to Switzerland must take out health insurance after three months at the latest. This also applies to babies and children. This ensures that everyone has access to basic medical needs. If you register as a refugee at a federal asylum centre, you will automatically receive health insurance. This applies to refugees with S status, but also to all other refugee residence permits. However, as you are not obliged to register as a Ukrainian refugee for the first three months, you need at least travel insurance or your host can take out guest insurance for you. Medical costs in Switzerland are not covered by Ukrainian health insurance.

Who pays for health insurance and medical treatment?

As soon as you have registered as a refugee at a federal asylum centre and applied for protection status S, you will receive compulsory health insurance from the date of submitting your application. The health insurance is paid by the canton to which you have been assigned. If you need help before being able to apply for S protection status, the costs are covered by the public authorities.

Can I go to any doctor and be treated?

That depends on which canton you live in. In some, such as the canton of St. Gallen, you can choose a general practitioner yourself. In other cantons, you are obliged to go to a specific doctor or contact a medical hotline beforehand. You can find out how things work in your canton at the social welfare office in the municipality where you live.

If I get injured/sick in a different canton to where I am registered, can I get medical treatment there or do I have to return to my canton?

In the event of an acute emergency, you can be treated at the place where you are at the moment. Otherwise, the instructions you receive from your canton of residence apply. The authorities will give you information on who to contact in the event of illness, accident, mental health problems or pregnancy.

I am pregnant. Should I go to the hospital for an examination?

Who to contact if you are pregnant may vary depending on your canton of residence. You can usually visit a specialised doctor (gynaecologist). Ask at the social welfare office in your municipality of residence where to go for prenatal examinations and advice.

Which treatments am I entitled to as a refugee and which are not paid for by the insurance?

As soon as you have applied for protection status S, you are covered by health insurance and receive the same medical benefits as Swiss residents. This health insurance not only pays for treatment in medical emergencies, but also to a large extent for other, non-emergency medical services, for example in the case of illness or maternity. If you are unsure which benefits are paid, ask the doctor treating you in your specific case or the social welfare office. Dental costs are usually not paid by the health insurance. In some cantons, however, dental costs are also covered. If you are unsure, it is best to ask the relevant social welfare office beforehand.

Do people with special needs still have to register separately with certain institutions?

No, people with special needs should register at one of the federal asylum centres as soon as possible. This means they are immediately covered by health insurance and receive payment for any medication and treatment they may need. In addition, the national and cantonal authorities can organise suitable accommodation for specific needs and organise specific assistance. 

Where can people with a disability get help?

In principle, the authorities are responsible for organising specific support. The staff there will clarify the individual needs and can organise the help required. However, due to the current high workload, it is possible that not everyone will receive the appropriate help quickly enough. In such cases, you can also contact non-governmental organisations for people with disabilities. Pro Infirmis, for example, also assists refugees with disabilities in the current crisis and has counselling centres throughout Switzerland. The association works independently.

Requests for support for all types of disability (medical aids required, care, etc.) can be sent to the special Pro Infirmis e-mail address: ukraine@proinfirmis.ch

In German-speaking Switzerland, people with a hearing impairment can contact the  BFSUG counselling centres for the hard of hearing and deaf (ukraine@bfsug.ch) or the Swiss Federation of the Deaf (in German-speaking Switzerland at info-d@sgb-fss.ch). People in French-speaking Switzerland can contact info-f@sgb-fss.ch, and in Ticino info-i@sgb-fss.ch.

People with a visual impairment can contact philippe.gerber@sbv-fsa.ch at the Swiss Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

For questions about children and young people with a visual impairment and their schooling and education, the SNABLIND association has set up a separate e-mail address: bildung@szblind.ch.

Whom can I contact if I need a wheelchair or crutches?

The best thing to do is to contact the advice centres of the Pro Infirmis association in your canton. You will find the address under "Offer" (Angebot) on the Pro Infirmis website. You can also contact ukraine@proinfirmis.ch.

Who can help me if I can only express myself in sign language?

In German-speaking Switzerland, people with a hearing impairment can contact the BFSUG counselling centres for the hard of hearing and deaf (ukraine@bfsug.ch) or the Swiss Federation of the Deaf (in German-speaking Switzerland at info-d@sgb-fss.ch). People in French-speaking Switzerland should contact info-f@sgb-fss.ch, and in Ticino info-i@sgb-fss.ch.

I started cancer therapy in Ukraine. How can I continue it?

It is important for cancer patients to apply for protection status S at federal asylum centre as soon as possible to be covered by health insurance in Switzerland. As a rule, the necessary cancer treatment is started or continued in Switzerland. Useful information can also be found on an information sheet from the Swiss Cancer League, where the organisation has compiled the most important questions and answers for Ukraine refugees in English.

Do I have to do all the preliminary examinations here again in order to continue my cancer therapy?

The doctors will decide in each case which measures are suitable and whether certain examinations are necessary again. If you have any records or documents from Ukraine, such as radiology images, it is best to bring them with you to the doctor. Doctors are bound by professional secrecy, so they are not allowed to give other agencies information about your medical history. If you are unsure or need anything clarified, you can get free advice in English, German, French and Italian from the Swiss Cancer League's cancer hotline on 0800 11 88 11 (Monday to Friday, 9 am - 7 pm). You can also contact the Swiss Cancer League by e-mail at helpline@krebsliga.ch, by chat, or via Skype at krebstelefon.ch (Monday to Friday, 11 am - 4 pm).

Is the cancer therapy paid for by the health insurance or do I have to submit a separate application?

As soon as you have applied for protection status S, you are covered by health insurance in Switzerland. Cancer treatment is then usually paid for by the health insurance fund. If your health insurance company refuses to cover the costs of treatment and you need help, you can contact the cancer hotline of the Swiss Cancer League: call 0800 11 88 11 (Monday to Friday, 9 am - 7 pm) for free advice in English, German, French and Italian.

I have diabetes. Where can I get information and help?

Consult a general practitioner regarding check-ups, adjusting medication and prescriptions for insulin therapy. If you do not know which doctor you can go to for treatment, contact the social welfare office in the municipality where you live.

Who will pay for my insulin medication?

The medication and treatment costs for diabetes therapy are paid for by the health insurance. As soon as you have applied for protection status S at a federal asylum centre, you are covered by health insurance.

Where can I get medication and who will pay for it?

In Switzerland, you can obtain non-prescription medicines from pharmacies. For example, light headache tablets, preparations for nausea or coughs. You have to pay for these yourself; they are not reimbursed by the health insurance. In some cantons, you can obtain these medicines free of charge from the offices responsible for refugees. Unlike in Ukraine, light antibiotics such as amoxicillin are only available by prescription in Switzerland. You can get a prescription from your doctor.

Are there places where I can get medical information in Ukrainian?

The websites medic-help.ch of the Federal Office of Public Health and migesplus.ch of the Swiss Red Cross provide a wealth of useful information on health. The information is also available in Ukrainian and Russian.

You can also get free medical advice from the Medgate hotline by calling +41 58 387 77 20. It is currently available in German and English.

Do I have to get vaccinated against Covid-19?

No, there is no compulsory vaccination in Switzerland. In principle, everyone over the age of 5 can be vaccinated. Booster vaccinations with an mRNA vaccine are recommended for all persons 12 years and older. The Covid-19 vaccination is free of charge for the vaccinated person. The canton of Zurich has produced a leaflet in English and Ukrainian about the Covid-19 vaccination. You can also be vaccinated against Covid-19 at the federal asylum centres.

Is the vaccination I received in Ukraine also valid here?

Whether the vaccination you received in Ukraine is also recognised in Switzerland depends on the vaccine. The following vaccines are currently recognised in Switzerland:

  • Pfizer / BioNTech (BNT162b2 / Comirnaty / Tozinameran)
  • Moderna (mRNA-1273 / Spikevax / COVID-19 vaccine Moderna)
  • AstraZeneca (AZD1222 Vaxzevria / Covishield / R-COVI / Covid-19 vaccine [recombinant] / COVID-19 Vaccine (ChAdOx1-S [recombinant]))
  • Janssen / Johnson & Johnson (Ad26.COV2.S)
  • Sinopharm / BIBP (SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine (Vero Cell))
  • Sinovac (CoronaVac)
  • COVAXIN
  • Novavax (NVX-CoV2373 / Nuvaxovid / Covovax)

Further information can also be found on the website of the Federal Office of Public Health.

I received two vaccinations in Ukraine. Do I have to get a third vaccination in Switzerland?

No, there is no compulsory vaccination in Switzerland.

Where can I get vaccinated?

You can be vaccinated against Covid-19 directly at the federal asylum centres or at a general practitioner’s. For all other vaccinations, it is best to contact a general practitioner or the office assigned by the authorities in your canton.

What vaccinations does my child need to go to school?

There is no compulsory vaccination in Switzerland. This also applies to children. Vaccinations are therefore not a prerequisite for school attendance. In general, vaccinations prevent serious diseases and ensure that not only the vaccinated persons, but also their families and those around them are protected. Have your vaccination status checked at a pharmacy or by a doctor.

Are Ukrainian childhood vaccinations and other vaccinations recognised in Switzerland?

The vaccinations that are recognised in Switzerland depends on the vaccine. If you have any questions or want to check your vaccination protection, it is best to consult a doctor.

The war has been very upsetting for me and my child. Where can we get help?

In some cantons, people who want to seek psychological help have to get in touch with a central office, such as the psychiatric services or a general practitioner. Contact the social services in your place of residence to find out who you can contact.

Does the insurance pay for psychological care?

In order for the health insurance fund to pay for psychological or psychiatric treatment, you need a doctor's referral. You can obtain these from your general practitioner. He/she can also help you find a suitable therapist.