Blood Donors/Receivers

Maybe this is worth posting since many are moving to Panama. If you have never paid attention to your blood type, it is worth knowing that Panama is not known for having blood on hand in case of emergencies.

This is even more critical during holiday seasons, because an appropriate donor might be away on vacation.

I am going to post a graph that reflects who are eligible donors and receivers for each blood type.

Other restrictions are often imposed by some hospitals in Panama, but some restrictions, such as age, are waved in an emergency.

Because of the fact that blood is not banked in Panama, it is important to be aware of such groups such as the Boquete Hospice & Health Foundation. They keep a registered list of donors and have helped many people, foreigners as well Panamanians.

Remember if you need to make a request, please provide the following information in order to receive assistance. Other requirements are on the Hospice website.

  • Blood Type
  • Hospital
  • name of recipient
  • Doctor requesting the blood

Following is a graph that shows who can donate for what blood type.


A New Hospital In Bugaba

I was in Bugaba the other day and was shown a new hospital that is under construction. It looks like will not be finished this year, but it was started under President Martinelli.

This hospital is large. It will be a public hospital. It looks like it will be a fine addition to this area.


I think the Panamanians always complain about whoever is in office, but I have seen more accomplished under Martinelli than I did in the two previous administrations.

I see that the Google Map won’t help much, but I was standing HERE when I took the photo.


Another Healthcare Reflection

After writing the previous post and reading some of the comments, I am going to follow up with another point to consider.

I realize it is easy to think only of one’s self when it comes to living. It is natural. Most people think of what it takes to make them happy and little on how their happiness may affect others.

When I moved here, for a person to qualify for a pensionado visa, they only had to provide proof $500 a person. Now it is $1,000. If I am not mistaken. many that came with less than a thousand a month are now struggling. Yes, they would be struggling in the US or most other countries as well.

Obviously most foreigners that come for the pensionado visa are 60 years of age or above.This is the age that places the biggest burden on any healthcare system. Many of my age group grew up when smoking was the norm. All movies and TV programs glamorized smoking. Luckily, I never fell into that group.

Because of smoking or other kinds of hard living, many come here in less than a physically fit condition. Many find themselves in need of significant healthcare and many wind up in the Regional Hospital. This hospital is by far the cheapest hospital in Chiriquí and I would say much cheaper than a US hospital.

Even with that, a couple weeks stay can turn into thousands of dollars. Many of the third tier age group wind up dying or needing to return to the US to tap Medicare for their rest of the care. Too many times, either of these situations result in the hospital having a bill that doesn’t get paid.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the gringo community (all white non Panamanians are considered gringos) being bad mouthed because of a medical bill that was not paid.

This is one of the reasons that many of the local private hospitals will not take a patient, requiring surgery, without having a large amount paid up front. Insurance or not, they want their money up front. Also few will take on the burden of collecting from insurance, they want you to pay and you to collect.

Now based the fact of many leaving without paying, I can understand the hospital’s point of view.

I had an american contact me a couple months ago that was treated in Hospital Regional and had a hip replacement. She was going to have to return to the US because she could not get the therapy she needed in Boquete. She had been released from the Regional Hospital with an outstanding bill.

She had contacted me to see if I knew a way she could pay the hospital in payments from the US and had been unable to get the answer from the hospital. The Regional Hospital is not equipped to handle international payments.

I finally agreed that when she got to the US she could deposit payments to my stateside account and I would make a local payment for her. Why would I do that you ask? Because I don’t want the perception of gringos running out on healthcare debts and that perception causing problems for other gringos.

Now getting back to my previous post. This is one big reason why I don’t want foreigners coming to Panama with potential health problems. One of these day, I may have to tap the healthcare community here and I want friends in that community and not enemies.

A Caution Before Moving To Panama

I was reading a post by my friend Larry, who recently left Panama to return to the states for health reasons. During his military career, he had developed a form of tuberculosis and was having repeated trips to the hospital.

He finally read the writing on the wall and realized that his condition was only going to continue to worsen, if he tried to stay in Panama.

This is the big caution I give everyone. If you are moving to Panama, have a good physical checkup and make the decision to move only after you get a clean bill of health.

This is not to say that you can’t get treated in Panama for most conditions, but the more complicated the problem, the higher the risk and the closer the bill will match treatment in the US. Add to that the fact that in most hospitals, you will not be getting state of the art treatment. Plus, Medicare is not honored in Panama and insurance is not any cheaper here. It is also much more difficult to get reimbursed.

Now if you are healthy when you move and you come here and get on the healthy diet that Panama can provide you, one containing fresh fruits and vegetables grown just a few miles from where you live. toss in a regimen of good exercise, which can be obtained by walking around this beautiful country, then you might outlive your expectancy in the US. (That may have set the record for the longest sentence I have ever written in this blog)

Certainly the stress level is less here, as long as you don’t mind waiting in long lines to pay your bills, and you don’t get too frustrated because your communication skills are not as good as they ought to be.

I believe healthcare is the first thing you have to feel comfortable about before you pack up and move to Panama. If you come here and like it, then you may decide that this it the place you want to live out your life. However, I have run into many people, through my visits to the hospitals, that are wishing they could figure out how to get back to the states because they know they are going to die in that hospital if they don’t.

I miss Larry being here. I enjoyed his sense of humor. I know that there are many things about the US that didn’t set well with him and he really wasn’t happy about having to move back, but from his recent post, I can see that he knows that moving back was the only way that would allow him to enjoy more tomorrows.

A Small Observation

Over the last week I have had to take several tests. On the whole, Mae Lewis has been cheaper than Hospital Chiriquí. As an example one test was $186 at Hospital Chiriqui and it was $140+ at Mae Lewis.

What this showed me was that it may be worth shopping around before having some procedures run.

Also for women, Hospital Obaldia is cheaper than both Mae Lewis and Hospital Chiriquí.

A penny saved is a penny earned so to speak.

My Latest Project – Me

OK. Time for some serious talk. As we get older, I turned 70 in October, part of our mechanics start to fail or at least need more attention. Years of neglect, fast food, hard living, business travel, bad relationships, etc. start to take their toll.

I had mentioned a while back that one of my eyes needs attention and that is being scheduled to get looked at. However, my feeling is that with the mileage on this body, I needed a professional take a look and make recommendations that would promote a longer and continued active life.

Moving to a Latin American country is also a reason to take active prevention. It is definitely easier to get injured in Panama than it is in most places in the US.

For example, walking is much more dangerous here. I can’t tell you the number of times I have fallen in David while walking downtown. People that come from the US are not used too the the sidewalk making an abrupt 2 inch change between stores. No transition, just a mini step that is easily missed when you are concentrating on store windows, vendors and other people walking.

The same is true when walking in the morning in the neighborhoods. I have walked the streets in Santa Lucia in Boquete, Volcan, Cerro Punta, David and others and this is never a walk you can take with out being extremely cautious.

Pavement in Panama is never well maintained and there are continually potholes, jagged edges and just plain drop-offs. You have to keep your eyes on the ground and since there is rarely a good sidewalk, you have to be aware of cars that never are going a reasonable speed.

To avoid the pitfalls of life (or should that be potholes) living in a Latin American country requires a little planning and that is what I am doing.

One of the big things we all need to do is to remove all the negative things and people from our lives. I fell fortunate to say that there are NO negative people in my life.

OK, back to the preventative maintenance phase of myself, I have engaged the serviced of Dra. Hilda Gómez Goff. She is an internist specializing in geriatrics. Whether I want to admit it or not, I am no longer a spring chicken and I believe a doctor who specializes in the problems of those of us that are more young at heart than young of body is probably a wise investment of my time and money.

I will have to say, I was very pleased with Dra. Goff. She is Brazilian and English is not her first language. We handled the interview in Spanish. She scheduled a couple special tests along with the normal blood work needed for my annual physical.

She also administered an equilibrium test which required me to extend my arms to the side, close my eyes and place either the right or left foot forward. Not as easy as it sounds.

In general I think we will find out that I am in pretty good shape for the shape I am in, but she did advise a regimen of exercise. She advised me to walk in the mornings, but after breakfast, not before. I probably need to take more advantage of pool time and get the old heart pumping.

Most people move to Panama only thinking about the climate and cost of living. My advice is to consider the health side of living here. Get to know your doctors before you have no option. Talk to others and get recommendations. Consider that you may have a heart attack at 2 AM in the morning and have to see a doctor within 20 minutes minimum.

I use sort of a twist on the old P5 axiom. This is my 4PD plan. The P5 axion is Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. My 4PD plan is Proper Planning Prevents Premature Death.

Incase you are interested in an internist specializing in Geriatrics, I am including Dra Hilda’s card.


A Smiling Way to Start My Day

This morning I had a mishap with my glasses and popped the left ear piece loose from the lens. Luckily Opticas Metro is not far from me.

I got there at 9:30 just as they were opening. Dra. Ines asked how I was. I said I am blind and showed her my glasses.

She just smiled and said she fix it. Her photo follows.

DSC00687Not only is she great with fixing and prescribing eye-ware, but her smile brightened my day.

Regional Hospital Update

I got a call last night asking about an Antibiotic Resistant Disease in the Regional Hospital.

It is true, that the hospital has restricted visitations to patients to prevent others from getting the disease. There have been deaths as a result of this disease. Here are some current news articles. Click on Provinces.

The outbreak is Clostridium difficile. It is typically contracted by physical contact.

The call I received was related to people who were considering donating blood in the hospital. Everyone has to make their own decision in a situation such this. If blood is needed and not received, then that is a problem. I personally think donating blood is safe, but others may not.

The Blood Bank is on the second floor. I make it a practice to only use the stairs in the Regional Hospital. I never touch the banisters on the stairs and walk in the middle of the stairs. I don’t use the elevator to avoid contact with other visitors.

I have curtailed all patient visits to the hospital until I am certain that the problem has been solved. I am currently calling the hospital to check on patients.

I always use the disinfectant dispensers on each floor before entering and leaving. I try not to take chances with my health, but I also try to balance my safety with the needs of others.

Short Patient Update

I went by the hospital this afternoon to check on the patient that had the lower limb removed. Today I had no problem going to the fourth floor after I explained my need to check on the patient.

When I arrived at the nurses desk I asked how the patient was doing. I was told that from a medical standpoint, he was doing as well as possible, but he was very sad and depressed. I asked if I could go back and see him so he knew he still had someone checking in and communicating with his family in the US.

I was told that currently visitors were not being permitted in that part of the floor because of an existing bacteria. Today, I didn’t see any of the nurses in special gowns or masks, so I can only assume it is not as dangerous as it was on one of my previous visits.

I also saw the hospital director in the area, and he was in a normal suit, so this is more conformation of a lower level of concern.

When one of the nurses heard me asking about this patient, she said he needed some cream his body and requested that I purchase some Lubriderm. I knew I had seen it at PriceSmart and said I would go get it and bring it back.

I made the purchase and on reentering the hospital, I went to the administrative area and had my contact there write the patient’s name on the cream. I then delivered the cream to the patient’s nurse on the fourth floor.

Today’s visit points out the necessity of having family or friends involved if a patient is in this hospital. The hospital would not have provided the needed Lubriferm cream. It is obviously not a supply kept in the hospital.