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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Reader question: Can doctors charge a cancellation fee in Austria?

Austrians value punctuality and, naturally, showing up for commitments. If you miss a doctor's appointment, you might be charged a fee. Here's what you need to know.

Pictured is a doctor using a laptop.
Pictured is a doctor using a laptop. Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Moving to a new country comes with many responsibilities, including learning about specific customs and rules that might not have been common in your country of origin. In Austria, people famously value punctuality and, of course, showing up for your commitments. 

When it comes to doctors’ appointments, you could have to pay a high fee if you fail to show up. So, here’s what you need to know.

Can doctors charge a cancellation fee?

Yes, they are legally allowed to charge a cancellation fee if you don’t show up to your appointment or cancel last minute. The actual cost varies but can’t be higher than €200. 

Each doctor will have a different policy, and not all of them charge a cancellation fee, so check how far in advance you can cancel an appointment without having to pay the fee. Some doctors will also give exceptions, especially if they know the patient is usually punctual and had an unexpected event that prevented them from coming to the scheduled Termin.

READ ALSO: Six things to know about visiting a doctor in Austria

“We understand that something comes up. But then you also have to cancel the appointment. Especially because there is a lot to do at the moment, we have encouraged our colleagues to charge a compensation fee for these last-minute cancelled appointments,” said Christoph Fürthauer, spokesman for physicians in private practice in Salzburg.

Anyone who fails to keep a doctor’s appointment without cancelling in advance is harming not only the doctor but also other patients, Fürthauer added. More often, “repeat offenders” are asked to pay. “For minor things or patients you’ve known for a long time, you’ll be more accommodating. But it’s really up to the individual doctor how they handle it,” he said.

Keep a written confirmation of the appointment

Doctors and doctors’ offices are not infallible, however – neither are the patients. So if you don’t attend an appointment due to a misunderstanding over the date or time of the scheduled meeting, you might have to pay for the fee regardless of whether or not the mistake was yours.

This is almost what happened to Joana, a Brazilian living in Vienna. She said that two days before her first visit to a doctor in the Austrian capital, she got an angry call from the doctor’s office claiming she had missed the appointment and would have to pay a €90 fee.

“It was scary. I barely spoke German and suddenly had this very angry man shouting at me on the phone. I had to hang up because he was being completely unreasonable and wouldn’t lower his voice,” she told The Local.

READ ALSO: Reader question: How to get a flu vaccination in Austria?

“Luckily, I was very insecure about my German and thought scheduling the appointment via email would be best. I went back to check and he had the wrong date; my Termin wasn’t for a couple of days. I replied on the same thread confirming the date again and saying it was very rude to call me like that – but got no apologies, of course.”

This case points out the importance of having a written confirmation of your appointment. Even if many doctors already have online booking offers, many still only reply to phone calls and will only schedule appointments on the telephone. 

If that is the case, send a follow-up email confirming the date and time just to be sure. 

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Which Austrian states offer free public kindergartens?

Salzburg has joined the list of states to offer free public kindergarten care to children aged between three and six years old. Where else can parents expect aid with childcare in Austria?

Which Austrian states offer free public kindergartens?

This week, Salzburg’s state government announced that it had reached a deal offer free part-time kindergarten care for children aged from three to six years old. The government has set aside €13 million to fund the care. 

The new offer will be introduced on April 1st, according to an ORF broadcast.

Wolfgang Mayer, chairman of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), said: “We are noticeably relieving Salzburg’s families and setting a milestone in childcare. Overall, a very good day for Salzburg’s families .”

Even though every party supported the decision, there was some criticism that it was “not enough”. For the liberal NEOS, for example, free half-day care is just a first step, Salzburg24 reported. The party continues to push for all-day care. Centre-left SPÖ also said there is still a need to offer free childcare options for children younger than three. 

READ ALSO: How does the cost of childcare in Austria compare to other countries?

How do other states stack up when it comes to childcare?

By federal law, part-time daycare is free of charge for children from the age of five throughout Austria. However, other provinces have different offers:

  • Burgenland: all-day care free of charge care for children up to age six
  • Lower Austria: part-time daycare free of charge for children between 2.5 and six
  • Upper Austria: part-time daycare free of charge for children between 2.5 and six
  • Tyrol: part-time daycare free of charge for children between four and six
  • Vienna: all-day care free of charge for children up to six

Salzburg now joins the list of provinces which have expanded the minimum federal requirements. Carinthia, Styria and Vorarlberg still only have part-time daycare free for 5-year-olds. From age 6, children in Austria then join compulsory schooling. 

In general, childcare in Austria is seen positively, especially by foreigners. A The Local poll from October 2022 found that 50 percent of readers surveyed described it as “good”, followed by 25 percent who said childcare in Austria was “very good”.

Shyam from India described childcare in Austria as “very good” before adding: “My country doesn’t have any support for childcare.”

Similarly, Marie in Klosterneuburg, but from the US, described it as “amazing”.

READ ALSO: ‘Better and cheaper’: What foreigners really think about childcare in Austria

How does the childcare system work?

In Austria, there are different types of care available before children reach mandatory school age, including nurseries for those under the age of three, kindergartens up to the age of six and workplace and university childcare centres.

In many parts of Austria, childcare for babies and toddlers up to the age of three takes place at day nurseries (Kinderkrippen), but there are other options, including Tagesmutterväter, where children are cared for in smaller groups. Later, they go to kindergartens before joining schools and moving on with their mandatory schooling.

Facilities are run privately or funded by the government, and the costs can vary. The family’s income and the number of childcare hours are considered when calculating fees.

Parents usually have to register for places in advance and some offers are very on demand. The location of the family is taken into account for spots in public schools. 

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