Today was the U.S. Embassy Outreach in David. I spent a large part of the day on a task for the Embassy and only attended about 15 minutes at the first of the meeting. I did leave cards with the ACS Chief for anyone needing to contact me, if a problem arises in David or Chiriquí in general.
I finally finished with my task around 5PM and returned to the Hotel for a followup. I understand that there were a few complaints that came up today about requiring a Bank Check for any payment to Embassy.
It was posted in BOLD in the Chiriquí Chatter post, so it should not have been a surprise. It might not hurt to point out why the process was put in place. It was determined by the security staff of the Embassy that it was not safe for them to leave the meeting with $5,000 in cash as they have in the past.
Credit cards are accepted at the Embassy, if you would prefer not using cash.
It also might be worth pointing out that it is not safe for anyone to be walking around in Panama carrying a large amount of cash. This always comes up when we near the holidays because thieves tend to stakeout the banks watching unsuspecting people make large withdrawals and then following them to relieve them of their money.
Another subject that came up during our evening discussion was related to healthcare or emergency care in Panama. I was told that the Embassy has had several calls from people asking for help, because the private hospitals, in Panama City, were not accepting them for treatment unless they deposited $10,000.
The fact is that the private hospitals have no responsibility to accept anyone, except possibly to stabilize a patient. After that, they will be shipped to Hospital Santo Tomás in Panama City, if sufficient funds aren’t available. Santo Tomás is the public hospital in Panama City similar to the Regional Hospital in David. If you are coming to Panama, plan on coming with Insurance.
Even if it is just for a vacation, get insurance before you come. Trust me, you don’t want to go to a public hospital, if you can avoid it. If you don’t speak Spanish, what are you going to do in a hospital where 95+% of the hospital staff only speak Spanish.
If your family in the US call to check on you, they won’t be able to communicate with the admission’s staff. If you call the Embassy, they will check on a possible patient, but they will not be able to discuss the patient’s condition unless they had previously registered on STEP and listed their contacts.
I have never found a person in the David Regional Hospital’s admission’s office that spoke English. I have spoken to some doctors in the Regional hospital that spoke English, but rarely find nurses speaking English.
If you are planning on moving to Panama and using the cheaper insurance offered by some of the hospitals, read the fine print well and it would also not hurt to go interview payment offices in the hospitals and ask some tough questions to understand how your coverage will work. Know which hospitals will honor that insurance and which ones won’t.
Panama can be a great place if you come with the right exceptions and plan ahead. If you don’t you may not enjoy it much.