One of the most frequent questions I get from people in the US – What is the medical care like down there? My husband’s 92 year old mother is with us and she needed a little help (nothing serious, prescription refills, etc)
There are three hospitals in David, (actually four if you count Hospital Jose Domingo de Obaldia for obstetrics and children). There are Hospital Chiriqui and Mae Lewis, both private hospitals, and the Regional Hospital (or Social Security Hospital), the public, free hospital for Panamanians. We were given a lead on a good general doctor at Mae Lewis who speaks English, so off we went to make an appointment for Ma.
The way it seems to work is that doctors go to this hospital in the middle of the afternoon, and patients just show up around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and wait their turn. We were directed to the doctor’s secretary, who directed us to the doctor who greeted us immediately. We had to explain that Ma wanted to see her, and we were only there to make the appointment. We would bring Ma back the next day.
The next day arrives and off we go. The doctor isn’t there so the secretary calls her. She shows up shortly after and ushers Ma into her office. I did not go in, but what I heard later is that Ma got a total exam, and detailed discussion of her health at great length. She felt like she was not only taken care of, she was listened to, and treated with kindness and respect. The visit took at least an hour! The doctor had some concerns about her skin (Ma spent much of her life in the tropics before there was sunscreen) so she called a dermatologist she knows and respects. It was the end of the day but the dermatologist said he would wait, and we were to come over now. We were given a detailed map and directions on how to find the office, and the doctor’s cell phone in case we had any problems.
The dermatologist (who also speaks English) treated Ma with equal respect and kindness, explained what he thought would help, how to use it and where to get it. He spent maybe 15-20 minutes with her.
The cost of of the GP, the hour visit – $40. The dermatologist was $25.
I have been a nurse (RN) for 34 years in the US, first in hospitals and then in home health. I have rarely been a consumer because I cannot get insurance that I can afford. I have worked with countless patients who are consumers in our health care system, and have gone to appointments with patients. I have stories, as you can well imagine. Our health care system is losing ground, spending more money and proving less care, and drowning health care providers in more and more paperwork and red tape for less and less money.
*deep breath* OK, I will refrain from running on, and I won’t pull out my really big soap box. I just wanted to recount our experience with the health care system here. There are many stories, and I have heard of some that aren’t totally positive but in general, I think your chances of getting good care here are much better than in the US. And, the price is much more reasonable.
YMMV (your mileage may vary). This is only our story. Ma has also been to many doctors in the US, and she is very happy with the care she has had here so far.