I received the following and will post it as a guest post.
Here’s my perspective of the public and private hospital systems in David. Your readers may be interested.
Sent live from my bed in Chiriquí Hospital!
Robert’s experience follows:
Public Medical Care
There is a lot of discussion amongst the Gringos about using the cheaper public hospital system over the private ones. Here are my experiences. Sorry for the length, but the devil is in the details.
I was perfectly healthy until 2 weeks ago. Then, two nights of terrible headaches led me to the Puerto Armuelles Hospital for pain medication. They found my blood pressure to be 80/55, my heart in atrial fibrillation, my liver and kidneys swollen and my abdomen full of fluid. I asked about being sent to Hospital Chiriqui but was told no, the best treatment for whatever tropical disease I had was available at the David Public Hospital. That was a lie.
I was given lots of saline at the public hospital in David and stabilized over a day and a half. The building was bright and new with plenty of staff. The problem was staff were there to run a system, not care for patients. I can make my wants known in Spanish, but the staff treated myself and the Panameno patients as mere bodies. Here are some examples:
I was in a room of about 25 patients and almost as many staff. The bright fluorescent lights stayed on 24 hours a day while the nurses played their music devices loudly at night. After 3 nights of sleep deprivation, I could literally start to feel myself go crazy.
When I first entered the hospital I was told I could have no water. It took 12 hours of pleading to finally get permission from one MD to drink, and then nobody would bring me any. I was desperate with thirst when my wife finally showed up with a water bottle.
My bed was under a huge air conditioner set at 18 degrees. I was shaking with cold, and you could hear patients moaning in distress as they were given a 2 AM cold sponge bath.
My IV regularly clogged. A nurse would draw a bolus of saline then ram it through the tube to clear it. When a long period occurred before the nurse looked at me, my venous blood had travelled back up along the tube. She blasted a bolus of this into me. Instantly, I wanted to defecate, urinate and vomit. I vomited. Then my heart sped up and it felt like a wild animal was trying to break free of my chest. I thought “If you have 1 weak blood vessel in in this body, you are going to be dead in 2 minutes”. Fortunately my heart settled down in 15 minutes.
Mealtimes consisted of 4 styrofoam cups of fluorescent liquids with harsh chemical aftertaste.
By day 4 I thought I would die in the Public Hospital. I signed myself out against their wishes and registered at the Cuidad de David Hotel for a wonderful night’s sleep and real food for breakfast.
I spent 2 days at home in Puerto Armuelles, then a good friend and MD suggested I needed to get checked out at the Puerto Armuelles hospital again where the nursing care was pretty good. I was still in heart failure and fluid retention was getting worse. My friend arranged for me to see an internal medicine specialist and cardiologist at Hospital Chiriqui.
I’ve been here at Hospital Chiriqui a few days now, and it’s obvious my recuperation will take months, including cardioversion in 2 weeks. The staff, from the room cleaner to nurses and doctors go to great lengths to explain my problems and treatment. I have a private, dark room, hot shower, I control the air conditioner temperature, I can order scrambled eggs on whole wheat toast for breakfast and fish fillet with broccoli cheese for supper. This I can live with.
Oh, and my diagnosis? Not a dengue, chikungunya or hepatitis virus. I just got sick.