I think healthcare is a necessary item to be discussed by foreigners living in Panama and those thinking about or in the process of retiring here. The discussion going on in Boquete Ning is very lively and I think it is worth your following the thread.
I do take issue with the way Lee framed his discussion.
What I take issue with is his saying,
“Don wrote about it, perhaps prematurely and then contacted the US Embassy to obtain verification.”
(“it” referring to Regional Hospital healthcare). That implies, that as an afterthought, I wrote the Embassy, which is not true. I wrote the Embassy prior to writing the post.
I felt that the information I had been given was of significant importance to be presented. I qualified that it might only be related to the fact that heart surgery would not be available in Hospital Regional after July 1.
Lee said that I should have talked to a second doctor before making the post. I have been in Panama since 2002 and know that you can get any number of answers from doctors. I would not trust the answer to this question being told by one, two or more doctors. The only way to get the real answer would be to ask the legal council of the hospital, and the Embassy is the best source to ask the question.
Another thing, I am concerned with. is Lee’s title “Putting A Healthcare Rumor To Rest“, because that could allow people think that healthcare is nothing to worry about, and Hospital Regional will always take care of you if you have a problem.
It is not as cut and dry as that. There is more to the story than, as Lee says,
“Bottom line yes you do need to pay for medical care at Regional but unlike a private hospital they will admit you, treat you and work a=out a payment plan with you.”
Let me preface by saying I have been in most areas of Hospital Regional, all floors, emergency room, blood donation area, social worker offices, psych ward, the hospital administrator’s office several times and the morgue.
It would be worth your while to take a couple hours sometime and go sit in the emergency waiting room and get a feel for where you will be brought in the event of a serious car accident. The Regional Hospital is the hospital where all trauma cases are brought because they are considered better equipped to handle them.
If you are lucky, you will never get to see the emergency area that is holding current cases. I have seen it too many times.
I just reviewed the list of cases from the Embassy that I have worked on at the Regional Hospital. At least six of the cases ended up in the morgue. A couple other cases, that were attempted murders, walked out. Of the six that died there, the majority were transferred there from other hospitals. Most because the patient ran out of money in a private hospital and one because the other public hospital did not have the capability to care for the patient.
I visited one individual because of a phone call from the Social Worker saying I needed to have the patient removed because the hospital needed his bed. When I saw him, I thought he was too weak to be discharged. A discussion took place between U.S. Embassy personnel and the social worker.
To make a long story short, the hospital still released him around 1PM. I got a call from his land lady around 6PM asking if I could come to his apartment.
Lilliam and I went to his apartment and found him having difficulty breathing and called 911. He died about an hour after 911 arrived. He should never been released from the hospital, but was released because the hospital wanted his bed.
After July 1, there will be no doctor in David that is qualified to do coronary related surgery.
David does not have a qualified neurological surgeon. I knew the previous one and he was very good. Currently, this need is being handled by bringing a surgeon from Panama City.
Not all doctors in David practice in the Regional Hospital.
If you are admitted, you may have no say about the doctor caring for you. The doctor may or may not speak English. It is extremely rare to find one of the nurses that speak English.
While I am on the subject of Doctors, I saw Dr. Adames name mentioned both in comments on my post and in the discussion on Boquete Ning. They tended toward a negative tone because his practice will only be provided in Hospital Chiriqui. Further many felt his prices were high.
I know Dr. Adames and consider him to be the most highly trained coronary physician in David and yes, his fee is higher than the average GP. Let’s face it, a mechanic capable of working on a Rolls Royce jet engine gets paid more than many other mechanics.
I have been to Dr. Adames office in Hospital Chiriqui many times and it is always full. I think he has more practice than he can take care of. If you need the service he provides, you need to plan on going to Hospital Chiriqui or go to Panama City. If you have no insurance then you are going to be limited to Hospital Santo Tomas in Panama City and being in a long waiting queue.
As I said before, there are many doctors in David that strictly practice in the private hospitals and do not attend patients in the public hospital.
Yes, I think this discussion is important and under no circumstance should its importance be lessened. Maybe I care about this subject, more than most people, because of my experiences here in Panama.
Many hear that you can come to Panama and get cheap healthcare and cheap insurance. Hospital Chiriqui has a plan that many get because of its cost. I know people that have had good experiences with only the HC insurance. I have had people tell me of horrible experiences.
Let’s face it, healthcare world wide needs to be a priority consideration as we get older. Señora Noris has made many valuable comments on my blog related to healthcare. I have grown to really appreciate her comments because she is a Panamanian and she shoots straight. It is good to get our perspectives modified by a Panamanian’s viewpoint.
One thing she points out is that people coming to Panama, without insurance, and planing on using the public hospitals create an additional load on a system that cannot meet all of the needs of the population they are here to support.
So with this, I will close this post. I still maintain that if you move to Panama without a plan to handle your healthcare needs, you may find yourself S.O.L in Paradise.