UPDATED May 15, 2015. The Embassy response is at the end of this post.
I had an interesting call from a physician in David with a growing concern. His concern is related to the large number of immigrants coming to Panama without a plan for health insurance.
I am going to express what I think I understood from the conversation. I have also written the U.S. Embassy and asked if they can verify the official policy for the Regional Hospital.
Let me preface by saying that since my moving here in 2003 and from my experience working on Embassy cases, I have seen many people be transferred to the Regional Hospital after they ran out of funds in the Private Hospitals.
From what I was told, that is going to change. Persons without insurance or proof of payment, will no longer be admitted to the Regional Hospital. People without insurance will only be admitted to the public hospital in Panama City (Santo Tomas).
Getting from David to Panama City may not be possible in many health situations.
I had not heard of Santo Tomas Hospital and asked Lilliam about it. She said it had recently been on the news for not having enough beds to handle the needs or supplies and many surgeries were currently not able to be done. Not a pretty picture.
The price of poker just went up. I have harped many times that a plan for one’s healthcare needs to be in place before moving to Panama. I believe that is truer than ever before.
I hope I can get an official interpretation of the hospital policy from the Embassy, but in the meantime, you have been forewarned. If you don’t heed the warning, you may be S.O.L. in paradise.
As a side note, the information may only relate to coronary care since the doctor that called was a heart surgeon and after July 1, would only work in Hospital Chiriqui. I think he is currently the only certified coronary doctor practicing in Hospital Regional.
However, I thought I had recently heard of another case that was turned away from the Regional Hospital.
I will update this post when I hear back from the Embassy.
Following is the response I received from the U.S. Embassy:
Good morning, Mr. Williams,
After several attempts, we finally got contact with the Legal Office at Hospital Regional in Chiriqui few minutes ago.
We asked the attorney there to please clarify if persons without insurance (referring to PNM Social Security Insurance -CSS) could be treated there. The attorney replied that Hospital Regional provides medical services to both the CSS beneficiaries and the non-CSS individuals, in the last case, referring to all individuals in Chiriqui that require medical attention. The attorney emphasized that it is expected that the non-CSS individuals pay their medical bills (–the attorney added that even if the individual does not have funds to pay, the Hospital is willing to accept partial payments until bill is totally paid).
We also asked the lawyer about the Hospital Regional sending or referring non-CSS individuals to Hospital Santo Tomas in Panama City. The lawyer denied this possibility saying that it is not true. Per the lawyer, Hospital Regional’s principles is to provide medical assistance to any person that needs it regardless of that person’s nationality.
Please let us know if you have any other questions regarding to this issue.