Traveller letters: How the French medical system saved my wife


On the French island of Corsica, my wife woke up breathless unable to move. The doctor I phoned for an appointment asked me to describe her symptoms and immediately said, "Don't bring her here – take her immediately to Calvi hospital."

Within the next few hours the hospital doctors had diagnosed her condition as life-threatening multiple arterial bloodclots in both lungs and at 11pm evacuated her by ambulance, with a doctor and a nurse in attendance, to Bastia Hospital's Cardiac unit 100 mountainous kilometres away on the other side of the island.

Halfway there, she was met by another med team from Bastia and spent the next eight days at that hospital and received world-class care. Serious illness or accident while overseas is every traveller's worst nightmare given most of us have little or no knowledge of foreign countries' medical facilities and systems – let alone quality standards.

In that respect France stands out as a country that takes exceptional care of its tourists, and where travellers everywhere can be confident of first class emergency attention.

France provides a unique facility to ensure emergency medical care for its overseas visitors. Anywhere in France a tourist with a medical condition has only to dial "15 " to be connected to a multilingual nurse, who will assess the circumstances and either arrange a local doctor appointment; or send one to the caller's location; or send an ambulance.

I have absolutely no doubt the immediate thorough examination, prompt night-time evacuation, and emergency care of these Corsican doctors saved my wife's life for which I'm eternally indebted to them, and to France.

John Youngman, Rose Bay, NSW


I would have gladly had Julia Carmichael in her Ugg boots across the aisle from me in Business Class last year on my flight from Sydney to London. This would have been preferable to the man who removed his shoes and socks immediately on boarding, even (often) going to the lavatory barefoot.

He put them back on to leave the flight at Dubai then on boarding the flight on to London, when again he was opposite me, promptly removed them again. I found this distasteful especially as he never once covered his feet with either the blanket provided nor the airline socks.


Jennifer Dewar, Double Bay, NSW


Spain's loss of its siesta is a sad development (Traveller, January 10). Sure it is hard for people from other countries to get used too but it's a different country with a different culture. And isn't one of the reasons we travel for experiences distinct from our own?

My husband and I have been to Spain twice – and yes after a hard day's sightseeing it seems hard to stay up for dinner. But we adapted and had our own "siesta". Then we went out for dinner and it was so much fun to be out with crowds in Madrid, Seville and Cordoba. It was more fun than shopping in the afternoon, which I can do at home.

Lynette Dawson, Williamstown, VIC


The article by Rob McFarland on Washington DC (Traveller, January 13) implies that, while in theory an Australian can tour the White House, in practice it is no longer possible as the Australian Embassy has not sponsored tours since 2011. However, it is still possible as we had a tour three months ago though it does require forward planning. A tour can be booked through Congresswoman Norton's office website and needs to be done several months in advance to allow for security clearances.

When completing the online request a DC hotel address needs to be used. Tours of the Capitol can also be booked through this site. Both are well worth doing. While in advance planning mode, consider also booking a tour of the recently opened Afro American museum. Although part of the Smithsonian and free, it is so popular that entry is by a pre-booked ticket and spots usually fill up months in advance.

Virginia Browne, St Kilda, VIC


In reference to the letter "Major Disconnect" (Traveller Letters, December 9), on a recent Qantas departure for Bangkok we were confined within the stationary aircraft for nearly two hours without any detailed information.

Again, prior to returning on December 4 (QF24) we were delayed approximately six hours with the original expected departure time being about 6pm. Mobile notification of delay came well after scheduled check-in time. For many hours weary passengers in the departure lounge were constantly advised of ever changing departure times as the night wore on.

No information was given about the nature of repairs nor availability of seats on next day's flight. After final boarding the captain finally kindly advised that hydraulic repairs had been needed after the incoming flight.

Given the need for repairs having been known much earlier, why did Qantas fail to notify passengers of a possible departure delay in time for them to avert an early evening check-in ensuring a long wait? And why the lack of detail and (as I believe is legally required) the absence of an offer of free accommodation after a delay of over four hours?

We don't dispute the need for mechanical repairs to ensure passenger safety. However, frequent apologies and a free drink don't compensate for lack of information.

Mary Dale, Naremburn, NSW


We arrived in Queenstown, New Zealand, in early December on a Virgin Australia flight to begin a long visit. Apparently the keys to our home in Sydney fell out of my carry-on, and since I did not need them I had not noticed they were missing.

I received an email from my wine club in Sydney, Vintage Cellars, advising me that Air New Zealand baggage claim in Queenstown contacted the club using my membership on the well-worn tag on my key ring and asked Vintage Cellars to contact me to collect the keys.

What great service is that from Virgin Airlines finding the keys in the overhead locker, Air New Zealand baggage claim tracing me through my Vintage Cellars account and Vintage Cellars contacting me that the keys were waiting for me at baggage claim Queenstown.

I would not have realised the keys were missing until I landed in Sydney and would have been in a bit of bother trying to get into the residence. This is a perfect example of co-operation and forward thinking by all the staff involved. A big thank you to all three agencies.

Kate Holland, Mosman, NSW

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