A few weeks ago, I posted the information here that our private insurance sent out for all foreigners living in Valencia, encouraging them to go down to the local health centre to get registered and in the system. All to get in line to be notified of their place in the vaccination brew ha ha that is the Spanish Covid vaccination plan. It looked easy enough to execute. Psst. Its not.
Then, I received a link from a friend who told me all the expats she knew in Valencia were not going to bother with that, and were using the link to avoid having to go down to the local health centre to show their documents. I thought about posting it here, but when I clicked on the link to verify it, my virus security software told me it wasn’t a legitimate website and was impersonating a legitimate one run by the Spanish government. It advised me to close my browser immediately, not to enter any data and not proceed. Eek.
With Covid, scams like these have abounded and the local news warns foreigners weekly about providing their information to illegitimate phishing scams that circulate on Facebook amongst the expat community. But my friend, and her friends, had already entered all theirs, and their spouses data into it. Oh no. I’m crossing my fingers for them. So needless to say, I won’t be posting the link here.
Jeff and I haven’t worried about getting the SIP (health) cards since we are entitled to healthcare through his job, as we pay into the Social Security System. They know we’re here. American’s think of Social Security as a retirement or disability system. But in Spain, Securidad Social is the entire social safety net for the country. It manages everything related to people for all of Spain. Unemployment, migrants, the new minimum income scheme, disability, pensions, and, yes, healthcare. We just needed to go to the local health centre, along with my magic plastic folders, and show them our NIE and passport. No problem. But not so fast.
When we arrived this morning, as per usual, we went in the wrong door. Finally, we found the right door and were lucky that reception was empty. I approached the counter and explained what we needed. This is when the first ‘No!’ happened. There would be more people, and many more ‘No!’s. I had Jeff’s work contrato trabajo, and the registration of his work contract with the authorities. I had the padron specifically for Tarjeta Sanitaria. Apparently, there is a padron specific for whatever bureaucratic task you’re trying to do. No, I didn’t know this was a thing until after I got my certificado digital and had a lost weekend trolling the Ajuntament de Valencia website- as one does. I even had copies of his IDC, with his Spanish Social Security number emblazoned upon it. No document ever, ever leaves the plastic folders. You never know when you will needed it.
Every single document they asked for, I had a copy of it. In triplicate. This isn’t my first round of the game show that is Spanish bureaucracy. I wanted to laugh and tell them ‘You have no idea who you’re dealing with.’ But then, the shouting started.
Sure, my Spanish isn’t great. But I understand, mostly everything. However, Hablando es muy dificil para mi. The first woman behind the counter who told me ‘No’, got her supervisor, who immediately told me ‘NO! Impossible.’ and pointed me to the door inviting me to leave. But I refused to go. Jeff just stood back. He does not want to be seen with me when I’m in this mode. And it is a mode. I know when I’m in it. Kudos to them, they got me there in record time. This mode is called ‘I’m right. You’re wrong. And I’m not leaving here until I get what I came for. Get some ointment, cause I’m now the worst rash you’ll ever have.’
The woman behind the counter still had our NIE cards and Jeff´s IDC, when the supervisor got another dude, and took Jeff and I down a hallway. They told us only one person could come into the office to try to sort this out. Jeff promptly pointed at me. Chicken. But I was happy to go. I was in the zone. We went through another reception area and into an office. The lady started shouting at me immediately and gesticulating wildly – because I think she thought I was either deaf or stupid. The volume of her voice would solve the problem. She told me the same things over and over. Basically, I could not get the SIP card and I should go and come back on her day off! I countered with my same story- at volume. When in Rome!
‘We are entitled to health care. We pay for it. We have the documents. We have the number from Social Security. We are getting our health care, and our cards! TODAY!’
Then another woman entered, carrying a paper in her hand with a bunch of red on it. I thought I saw my name. Not a good sign. They chatted back and forth, and then the supervisor called the dude, again, who was supposed to speak ingles, but he couldn’t keep up with my Spanglish and the very loud conversation we were already having. Finally, the supervisor became exasperated and scooped up all my documents and we marched out to where Jeff was sitting. He stood up, looking alarmed.
‘What was that all about’ he asked. ‘I could hear you guys shouting from out here.’
‘Don’t worry about it.’ I told him. ‘Its like when you went to the Police station to get your NIE and they told you it was impossible, but you refused to get up until they gave it to you. We are not leaving here. They now know we’re not leaving here. They will have to do something. ‘
The two ladies and the dude marched me back to reception, with Jeff trailing in our wake, where the first woman was still behind the counter. They, again, tried to get us to leave. In a very loud voice, I shouted.
‘So what you’re telling me, is that in the middle of la pandemia, we CAN NOT get the healthcare we are entitled to! Health care we pay for through my husband’s job! So, if he gets Covid he should just DIE at home? Is this what you’re telling me?! This man’ and I pointed at Jeff as a visual aide, ‘has no access to healthcare?’ He stepped back. There was an audible gasp from somewhere in the crowd.
Everyone in that lobby stopped and stared at him. A look of wide eyed horror was visible above each person’s mask, including all the patients in reception, Jeff ,and the people I had been dealing with already. The dude understood what I said. So did the receptionist. She waved them to join her through the door. The two woman and the dude went inside behind the counter with the receptionist, as she typed furiously. Jeff leaned over to me.
‘That was fun.’ he whispered. ‘I’m going to assume you know what you’re doing.’
I laughed. ‘Of course. Just wait for it.’
We waited and, finally, they came out of the reception desk. And what did they have? SIP cards neatly printed out with our names on them. Imagine. They handed me back all my documents, our NIEs and passports, and we’re good to go. I wanted to say ‘Look. Was that so hard?’ But it actually was.
‘Muchas muchas gracias.’ I told them all. Waving as we promptly left.
Jeff laughed. ‘Well, I guess we got our stress in for the day. In the middle of all that I realized you hadn’t eaten yet today.’
‘Are you kidding.’ I told him. ‘Low blood sugar had nothing to do with this. That wasn’t stress. That was nothing. It was theatre. Once they realized I wasn’t going to leave they just had to do it. And now we’re all set.’
So the moral of the story for today is this. Never click on links people send you via Facebook or WhatApp. And, in the world of Spanish bureaucracy a ‘Never leave’ policy works every time.