Wondering who you turn to for questions about your baby’s health? Who checks that your baby is growing as he/she should? What about when he/she is sick?
In this section, we’ll look at:
- Basic principles of health care in Belgium including the Global Medical File
- Free well-baby visits from the ONE/Kind en Gezin
- Paediatrician or family doctor?
- Subsidised childcare if your baby is too sick to go to daycare
- First aid classes
- Neonatal care, emergency departments and children’s hospitals
- Anti-poison centre and burns centre
Basic principles of health care in Belgium
Under Belgium’s ‘health insurance fund’ system (the ‘mutuelles’/’mutualiteiten’) you are entitled to subsidised healthcare provided you are paying social security contributions (through working on a Belgian contract or being self-employed), or are the non-working family member of someone who is.
Unlike in many countries, in Belgium there are no restrictions on which healthcare provider(s) you can see to be entitled to subsidised care, provided that person is registered with the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (INAMI / RIZIV). For example, you can see a doctor in your own commune, or 100km away; in a hospital setting, or in private practice.
You can even arrange to see a specialist doctor yourself, e.g. pediatrician, gynaecologist, urologist, although note that your mutuelle will reimburse more of the cost if you have been referred by a general doctor.
The fees that a healthcare professional charge depend on whether or not they are ‘conventionné / ‘geconventioneerd’. A healthcare professional who is ‘conventioned’ adheres (either fully or e.g. on fixed days) to the fee schedule fixed in the convention with the mutuelle.
Your mutuelle will reimburse you the same amount for e.g. a visit to a pediatrician, irrespective of whether the care provider is conventioned, so your final ‘out-of-pocket’ costs will be lower if you choose a conventioned doctor.
Global Medical File
With individuals in Belgium are free to see any doctor, it can be difficult to ensure continuity of care and centralisation of medical records.
To encourage patients to centralise everything with one general doctor, it is possible to agree to have a Global Medical File (‘Dossier Médical Global (DMG’ / ‘Globaal Medisch Dossier (GMD’).
To have such a file, you pay a yearly fee of €31 which is completely reimbursed by your mutuelle. Once you have a DMG, a larger proportion of the cost of visit to your general doctor will be reimbursed.
As well as saving you money, having a DMG also ensures better care, since all records of tests and exams will be in one place, giving a better overview of your health and situation.
Free well-baby visits from the ONE/Kind en Gezin
In Belgium, state-run family agencies Office de la Naissance et de l’Enfance (ONE) and Kind en Gezin run free ‘well baby’ clinics and vaccination programmes.
If you give birth in a Belgian hospital, a representative from one of these agencies usually visits to explain the services on offer and take your contact details – a social worker from your local ONE/Kind en Gezin may then be in touch soon after you leave hospital.
‘Well-baby’ checks are offered free of charge at local ONE/Kind en Gezin consultation points (in urban areas there are many centres, while in less accessible areas, mobile clinics are sometimes used).
At these visits, your baby can be weighed and measured, and you have an appointment with a paediatrician and social worker who can answer any questions you may have about your baby’s health and development. If you follow the vaccination programme recommended in Belgium, then vaccinations can also be carried out for free at these appointments.
You will receive a ‘Carnet de l’Enfant’ / ‘Boekje van het kind’ (Book for your child), where all medical details, vaccinations etc. are recorded.
There is no obligation to take advantage of the ONE/Kind en Gezin services. If you prefer, you can centralise all your baby’s care with a pediatrician – or in most cases with your family doctor.
Well-baby checks in daycare
Many daycares arrange to have a team from the ONE/Kind en Gezin visit them to carry out well-baby checks, and vaccinations if necessary.
Again, you are not obliged to take advantage of this.
Paediatrician or family doctor?
In Belgium, is it not uncommon to take children to a paediatrician for check-ups, when they are ill or for vaccinations, and you do not need a referral to do so.
However, unless your baby is very ill, then your family doctor may be a handier and cheaper option.
- A pediatrician who applies the ‘conventioned’ fees will only charge around €35-€40. However, few pediatricians are ‘conventionné, and a visit typically costs around €50, but can be higher.
The mutuelle reimburses a fixed amount, irrespective of whether or not the pediatrician is ‘conventionné’.
- A family doctor who applies the ‘conventioned’ fees will typically charge €26. Most family doctors are ‘conventionné’, but not all.
The amount the mutuelle reimburses will depend on whether or not you have a ‘Global Medical File’, and is again a fixed amount irrespective of whether or not the doctor is conventionné.
Note: If you are really curious to know the exact amounts charged and mutuelle reimbursements for each distinct code on your medical bill, you can find this on the website of the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (INAMI-RIZIV).
It is also worth remembering that a paediatrician will probably be harder to reach outside of regular working hours, and will usually not carry out home visits.
And while some family doctors are happy to see babies and young children, others may prefer not to see babies under the age of 3 or 6 months, or even one year. Ask your own doctor how he/she operates.
Remember that you can have free well-baby visits and vaccinations with the ONE/Kind en Gezin.
How do I find a paediatrician or family doctor?
You can’t beat a personal recommendation for a paediatrician or family, but what if you don’t actually know who to ask?
Below are some of the wonderful Facebook groups that you may be able to access:
- the ‘English Speaking Mums in Brussels, Belgium’ Facebook group (closed group, but you just need to request to join – and yes, it’s for ALL parents, not just mums)
- if you’re a BCT member, the ‘BCT – Brussels Childbirth Trust’ Facebook group, or your local BCT group’s Facebook page, if they have one (check with your group leader).
The BCT information team has also compiled a list of paediatricians and family doctors based on recommendations from BCT members. Note that this does not mean that the BCT itself recommends particular doctors.
- if you’ve used Antenatal & Baby‘s services, the ‘Antenatal & Baby’ Facebook group.
You might also find a paediatrician or family doctor via:
- the hospital where you give birth.
- a website like www.doctena.be where you can search for various types of doctor by post code.
How do I find an on-duty paediatrician/doctor and pharmacy?
If you can’t reach your own doctor or paediatrician, you can call the relevant central number for Brussels
If your own doctor is not available and you live anywhere in the 19 Brussels communes, you can call +32 (0)2 201 22 22 at any time of day or night.
A qualified operator will take your call and will either:
- send an on-duty doctor to your house/apartment as soon as possible; or
- send you to a ‘poste médicaux de garde (PMG)’ / ‘huisartsenwachtpost’ (‘urgent care’ that is not serious enough to warrant a trip to hospital emergency department).
For more information about this service, and for details of who to contact if you live outside Brussels, see here.
Subsidised childcare if your child is too sick to go to daycare/school
Most mutuelles offer a childcare service if your child (from 3 months to 14 years) is too sick to go to daycare/school. Subject to certain conditions and availability, a qualified childminder will come to your home to look after your child.
Note that you will need to have a doctor’s note stating that your child needs to be looked after.
The cost is around €3 per hour, with a maximum of 10 hours per day, and 3 days per illness, and you can usually have 18 days per year per child. Check with your own mutuelle for details.
The childminder only looks after your child – no other domestic tasks can be requested. In Brussels, demand for this service is very high, so you need to contact your mutuelle as soon as you know you will need the service.
Depending on availability, it may be possible to arrange care for the following day.
First aid classes for parents
Following an infant first aid course is an easy way to gain knowledge and skills that can help you keep your children safe and healthy.
- First aid trainer Kate Ellwood runs ‘First Aid for Parents’ courses (in English) online and at both:
- the Brussels Childbirth Trust (BCT) in Ixelles; and
- Antenatal & Baby in central Brussels.
- The Belgian Red Cross runs pediatric first aid courses – Croix Rouge courses French and Rode Kruis courses in Dutch.
Neonatal care, emergency departments and children’s hospitals
The website Hospichild (only in French) is a wonderful resource for any parent whose child needs to be hospitalised. Use Google Chrome’s automatic translation function to view the site in your language.
Also worth mentioning are:
- Brussels’ dedicated children’s hospital, Queen Fabiola Children’s University Hospital, which has an emergency department
- Queen Astrid Military Hospital just outside Brussels, which looks after burns victims, including children
Other useful contacts
If you know or think your child has injested or come into contact with a hazardous substance:
Main helpline: +32 (0)70 245 245
Website: https://www.centreantipoisons.be (French) / https://www.antigifcentrum.be (Dutch)
Main helpline: +32 (0)71 448 000
Hôpital Militaire Reine Astrid, Rue Bruyn 1, 1120 Bruxelles
Tel: +32 (0)2 264 48 48
Website: http://www.hopitalmilitaire.be (French or Dutch)