The municipality of Engelberg in central Switzerland has been saddled with a hospital bill for CHF348,900 ($351,700) for a foreign tourist who fell seriously ill last summer.
The elderly tourist, who has now returned to his own country, had to spend “considerable time” in intensive care in a local hospital, according to the Zentralschweiz am Sonntag newspaper.
After various payment possibilities had been examined, remaining costs for the hospital, in canton Nidwalden, still came to CHF388,900. The hospital board decided to reduce the bill by CHF40,000, but Engelberg, in neighbouring canton Obwalden, would have to pick up the remainder.
According to the social assistance law in canton Obwalden, municipalities are obliged to provide assistance if someone from abroad who is staying in Switzerland but who is not a permanent resident requires immediate aid. This is based on the federal lawexternal link for responsibility for those requiring assistance from 1977.
The local council of the 4,000-strong village has agreed to cover the costs but said it would look into how and whether it could take out insurance for such “extraordinary” cases.
Although the amount involved in this case was unprecedented, the tiny mountain municipality of Alpthal in canton Schwyz had to pay some CHF100,000 in 2013 after a penniless pilgrim from the EU fainted and fell on the Route of St Jamesexternal link.