I have spent the last three days working on two cases for the U.S. Embassy. Maybe if I document some of the problems involved, it will cause at least one more person to be willing to register with the U.S. Embassy in Panama City, and to set up a personal buddy contact and maybe write a will.
I received a call on Wednesday from the Embassy asking if I could check on a U.S. Citizen that was in the Regional Hospital. The hospital social worker had called the Embassy requesting help because the doctors were saying he was fine and they needed him to leave because the hospital needed the space.
When I saw him he didn’t look well enough to care for himself if he returned to his apartment. I went back yesterday and the doctors again said he was perfectly fine and ready to leave.
I went to meet with the hospital social worker for this case. When I was sitting in the office of the hospital social worker, I called the Embassy so they could talk to her while I was there. She told the Embassy that they needed to release the patient to free up space.
Each time the hospital had wanted him to go, the patient had not wanted to go because he didn’t feel well. The Embassy asked what the hospital’s practice was in cases when the doctors said the patient was fine and the patient felt he needed more care.
The social worker said, if they didn’t leave voluntarily, that the hospital would put them on the street. The Embassy asked if this was the same treatment that would be given to a Panamanian. The answer was yes.
So, it was arranged for an ambulance to take the patient back to his apartment. Yesterday evening I received a call from the apartment landlord asking if I would come and see the patient that had been released.
Lilliam and I got to the apartment about 7:00 PM. When I saw the individual, it was obvious he was having trouble breathing and we called 911 for an ambulance to take him to a hospital other then the Regional Hospital. When the ambulance arrived, he was having more difficulty breathing and his heart stopped while the 911 attendants were there. They administered emergency treatment.
Thirty minutes later, he was pronounced dead. Now here is the part I have problems with. About 9 days ago he was fine. He went to the Olympic pool close to the airport and swam for two hours a day, three days a week, and had the habit of doing this for the last three years. While he was elderly, he could only be described as having exceptional health.
About 7 days ago he was hit by a pickup and taken to the Regional Hospital. In a mere 7 days in he was no longer fine. Of course the accident was the beginning, but broken bones should not be a reason to die. Had he been in one of the private hospitals, I believe he would still be alive. If a person enters the Regional Hospital and has no family there to monitor his/her care, he/she is in high potential risk. It is my opinion that a non-Panamanian has an even higher risk. While this is opinion, I have been to visit 4 prior gringo cases and two left alive. 50% doesn’t built much confidence with me.
I am convinced that had he not been released, he would have died in the hospital do to lack of care. For a medical doctor to have said he was fit to be released is almost criminal. For the hospital to say he leaves of his own volition or he will be put out on the street, should be a warning to anyone that enters and stays for any period of time in that hospital.
Now for you to understand how I spent last night. We called the Police and they came quickly and said we should ask for a doctor from the hospital to issue a reason for death. Obviously the hospital wanted nothing to do with that.
We then asked the police to notify the Fiscalía to come and take the case. I formally asked for an autopsy because I think that will indicate that he should not have been released.
We now started the wait for the Fiscalía. At 2:30 AM, this morning, the police said that nothing would happen until after 8:00 AM. Lilliam and I came home for a couple hours of sleep.
We returned to the apartment at 8 AM this morning and I had Lilliam call the Fiscalía Superior Primero and tell them we were waiting. This time when the officials came, they claimed that they were never notified last night and someone should have come sooner.
At 11:30 AM this morning they had completed all of their paperwork and the body was taken to the morgue for an autopsy. With the David cremation capability being closed, it will have to potentially go to Panama. But again, wishes could be easier exercised, if there was a will.
By the way, I spoke with the deceased’s lawyer this morning and he had also been told by doctors that the individual was fine and the hospital needed the space. The lawyer had told the doctors that he did not appear fine to him.
Now the second case. In the same 6 person room, as the previous patient, was another U.S. citizen. He asked to talk to me. He had had surgery and while he was using the same doctor that had treated him in Hospital Chiriquí, the nursing attention in the Regional hospital was missing. He requested some assistance from the Embassy.
I just spoke to the Embassy and a consul will be here next week to visit the patient and verify that proper care is being given and if the patient wants to move will assist in making that happen. I will tell you that the attention he is now being given seems to have improved. It helps to have someone in your corner. I plan on checking on him Sunday.
Neither of the men have family here and neither were registered with the Embassy. If you are going to live here, you have to understand that this is a third world country. If something happens to your health, you are up a creek without a paddle if you don’t have a buddy and a plan to be executed.
The first died without a will and no family in the states. He personally told me that he had one friend here and thought of him like a son. I know he would want his personal things to go to his friend, but that may not happen.
I plan on going to bed early tonight.