Tag Archives: Hospitals

Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

Yesterday, I decided to cancel my MAPFRE heath insurance. When I checked my VISA bill I noticed it has jumped another $90/month over last years costs. $930/month is just more than I am willing to pay.

I have researched other health plans over the last year and really haven’t liked any that I have looked at.

However, not wanting to be entirely without any coverage, I decided to check out Hospital Cooperativo’s plan that I had seen being promoted by ACC in Boquete. From looking at the presentation I was sent, one would have thought that ACC developed this plan.

Today, Lilliam and I went by Hospital Coorpativo to find out more. Now I have used Hospital Coorperativo on occasion since 2005 when Lilliam introduced it to me. She has used it over 20 years.

I had never heard of this hospital having a participation plan before, but learned today that the plan is about 1 1/2 years old.

I have met Dr. Wong, the director of the hospital, many times when he was on duty in the emergency area. Lilliam has great confidence in him and used him caring for her three daughters. Continue reading Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

Plan Ahead

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.

Another Health Care Experience

The following came in as a general comment on the David Hospitals, but I decided it would fit better as a guest post.

Too many people come to Panama with false expectations about healthcare and wind up frustrated or worse.

One of these days I will have another followup of experiences learned durning the care of MC.

Planing on living in Panama? Better have a grasp on basic Spanish if you want to survive many healthcare needs.

My husband was seen first in Boquete clinic..they did some tests  gave an IV.The test results showed an infection.Dr.Chen recommended a David hospital.We headed there got in right away at CHIRIQUI.

They took blood started an IV. We waited two hours for a doctor. Then I needed to head back to Boquete  to get the children to bed (school today). I called my husband several times still no doc. Then went to bed..at 11:00 the hospital called and said I needed to come in immediately  to pay $1100.00 for the emergency  room. $500.00 for admission fee and $600.00 for other fees not the testing.I told them I was not driving from the mountains at 11 at night to pay a bill.I was hesitant  to give them my debit card.They said he would need to leave then. This is all very broken english…she put me on hold and told me I could pay in the morning when I come in.

I just talked to my husband..he still has not seen a Dr. Or a nurse that speaks english.It is nine am. I will be heading in to pick him up and take him back to Boquete  clinic. They even wrote extensive notes for David hosp. They may be withholding care until that bill is paid.My husband said No one has come in except to change IV bags.He is very sick..Dr.Chen thinks he needs IV antibiotics….I didn’t think I needed to bring a translator.

Too much false info on these blogs.One has to live here to really know what it is like….We love it here…just need to figure out good health care.
I checked put flights to US . BUT don’t think Eric could make the 27 hours.

Frustrated

Yesterday

Yesterday I went to the Regional Hospital to get a PAW (Privacy Act Waiver) signed by a man from Boquete so the Embassy could talk to his family.

Another lady from Boquete was on the third floor in intensive care that I didn’t see.

Met another man in the Emergency room from Boquete that had an infection and was waiting for an antibiotic injection. Said he had been waiting inside the Emergency area for over and hour and hadn’t seen anyone.

Asked to see another man that had called me from the Emergency area the previous day. The hospital records showed he had been admitted the previous day, but had no record of where he was.

He lived a couple blocks from Cuesta de Sol in David. He was the victim of an armed home invasion and suffered a broken rib. Phone, PC, and money were taken. I am a little concerned that the hospital had not other records for him.

Pardon my Rant

While I was waiting for Marion to finish a laboratory test last week, I started thinking about some of the recent discussions on some of the local forums.

Entirely too many people are moving to Panamá with no plan for their healthcare. This really concerns me.

They my be ignorant about Medicare not covering them in Panama. They may think their health is good and they don’t need insurance. They may not have money for insurance and think healthcare in Panama is cheap. They may think the country healthcare system won’t turn them away.

Let’s consider these thoughts.

First people need to understand that Medicare is not valid outside of the USA. If that is their plan, then they are not covered. They will not be admitted to any private hospital in case of emergency without providing proof of payment, often $4,000 dollars or more for admittance.

One should never think that good health is a reason not to have insurance coverage. Look are the increase in home invasions sending people to the hospital. Home invasions, automobile accidents, being in the wrong place at wrong time. Many things can send you to a hospital.

Since I moved here the private hospitals are becoming more insistent on proof of payment prior to admission. The minimum I have heard was $4,000 and normally it is $5,000 or more and depending on what the hospital expects the total care to be, it may request a payment plan. Continue reading Pardon my Rant

MC Update November 6

It has been about eight days since my last update.

For those just tuning in, this is a followup to THIS POST.

Let me start off by making something clear. This is a slow process. I went to the hospital yesterday morning and there were some visitors hoping to see Marion and had heard she was very much improved to the point that she might be released soon.

I had seen her the previous day, in the morning and the evening, and she was having a bad day. She was having difficulty breathing. Then, yesterday morning when I saw her, there had been no improvement. I could tell she was concerned.

I spoke with the doctor and he said they had found fluids in her lungs again. He said his plan was to drain the fluids. He called me about 1 PM yesterday and said he had talked to Marion and explained the situation. He explained the procedure to me, and said the procedure was scheduled for 3PM. Continue reading MC Update November 6

Healthcare Reality in Panama and The Cost of Living

No talk about the cost of living should exclude the topic of healthcare and planning for it. I have no problem with publications saying that healthcare is cheaper in Panama than the US, however, comparisons in quality are seldom mentioned.

If you live in Chiriquí, where I live, there are two reasonably large private hospitals. There are other private clinics and there are public clinics and hospitals. The availability of having places to go is not the problem. It is what is going to happen once you get there.

I volunteer as a Warden for the U.S. Embassy representing the David, Chiriqui area. This puts me in touch with many cases, usually at the public Regional Hospital (The Social Security Hospital).

That is because most accidents or other serious emergency cases are either taken there immediately or sent there when they are refused admittance at a private hospital. Continue reading Healthcare Reality in Panama and The Cost of Living

Doctor Reference

Always good to get a good doctor referral.

Hi Don,

FYI, MSPH Care now covers med/Dr services at Hospital Mae Lewis.

Planning my hernia surgery, I got exams from 4 Drs; 3 at Hospital Chiriqui, 1 at Mae Lewis. I choose Dr Samuel Cattan Jr, who only practices at Mae Lewis, and does not float between both private hospitals. Meaning also, I choose Mae Lewis over H. Chiriqui, even tho H. Chiriqui is a much better facility; better to pick the Dr, not the building. Dr Cattan was the only 1 of 4 who thoroughly examined me, detailed my condition, and explained the surgery.

I had exams one day, had lab tests the second day, had surgery the third day, was released from hospital the forth day. Couldn’t have had faster than that! Much of that service due to the hand-holding of Dr Cattan. He personally walked me thru the 4 lab tests; he was there to greet me when I was admitted into hospital; after his surgery he visited me in my room; the next morning he post-op examined me and issue a hospital release. After 2 days convalescing, I bussed home to Bocas. A week later, I was back to my regular self. That only happened due to the care and skill of Dr Cattan. I cannot more highly recommend a surgeon.

Post on CC if you wish.

Larry

Rude Awakening

I received the following email this morning. Maybe it is time to put out another advisory, that retirement in Panama is not for everyone.

Hi Don Ray,
I visited with Peter yesterday. He said he had found John on the floor at the Occidental apartment. Peter said it was a hard fall but nothing was broken. It looked like someone had taken a bat to John. Peter had him transported to Regional. When they checked in at ER no one asked who would be responsible for the bill.

Regional kept him for 4 nights. Peter purchased a wheelchair. He went out there to pick him up. They unhooked the tubes, put John in the chair and off they go. The hospital did not present Peter with a bill. or ask for payment.

Peter is trying to get John checked into El Hogar de los Ancianos. John is #4 on the waiting list. Peter said they were going to charge $700/month. Peter said there is a place in Dolega but that is too far for him to go.

Peter was very impressed that you had made the trip to the Occidental and that a lady from the embassy called.

I just thought I’d update you. Some Americans are in for a rude awakening when they learn they can’t find a care home.

Cheers,

Last month I visited another U.S. Citizen in Algorrobos that is also on the waiting list. He had recently had a stroke and his neighbor’s are taking care of him until a vacancy is open. Continue reading Rude Awakening