A Medical Appointment, a Trip to the Lab, Mae Lewis Hospital

Ma had a follow up appointment with the GP, Dr Luz Visuette at Mae Lewis Hospital. I went along for the appointment this time so I was able to observe.  I found the doctor kind, caring, thorough, and very competent. She speaks English well, important for Ma who doesn’t speak Spanish. She asked the right questions, and made recommendations that made sense to me. She also called the dermatologist who had seen Ma earlier to consult about their plans of treatment. She spent at least 30 minutes with Ma – $40. There was a sense that she had no other concerns except to see that everything was addressed, all questions were answered, and we were clear on everything we needed to know.

This isn’t how it is in the USA. Doctors there are expected to focus on production, get them in and out, generate revenue. Without revenue, the whole business will implode. You are lucky to get 5-10 minutes, and you know he is very aware of the other patients lined up in the other rooms. It is very unlikely he will have the time to call any other doctors who are also treating you.

Another interesting difference that I’ve seen with all the doctors here – there is no lineup of exam rooms. The doctor him/herself is likely to call you into the office. When you step in, you will be in the actual office with the desk and shelves and whatever else you find in a regular office. The exam room is an adjoining room with maybe a screen or partial wall separating it from the office for privacy. You begin your visit at the desk to discuss what is going on, and then the doctor takes you to the exam area. When the exam is done, the doctor takes you back to the desk to continue the discussion until the visit is finished. There is no lineup of partially dressed patients in other rooms waiting their turns with the doctor. Everyone else is in the hallway or waiting areas.

The doctor had also requested some lab tests. The tests appear to be a CBC (18 tests), chemistry (15 tests) and a UA – $132.80.  The lab seems to routinely get things processed and results available in about 2 hours.

Just for good measure, and in the interest of working on my video skills, we recorded the trip from KFC (one of the main landmarks along the PanAmerican Highway) to Mae Lewis Hospital.

The photo at the top of this post is from the Mae Lewis Hospital website.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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6 Responses to A Medical Appointment, a Trip to the Lab, Mae Lewis Hospital

  1. Much better than health care in the US where we spend so much to get so little.


  2. This is a great post. So true. I was in Coronado, a couple of months ago, and my blood sugar was acting up. I hadn’t taken my pills (stupid me) so my eyes were a little blurry and I had a migraine. A friend in town took us to a clinic in the small town of San Carlos along the Pan-American Highway. The doctor spoke a little bit of English. He checked my blood pressure, did a blood sugar test, warned me of the dangers of not taking my medicine and checking myself regularly. He sent me on my way with a $1 bill. One dollar. I couldn’t believe it. I would’ve paid at the minimum $35 back when I had insurance and a co-pay in the States. A doctor here in the city charges me $4 per visit. I only have to pay more if need lab work or anything extra. Granted, these visits were not done at Punta Paitilla or Hospital Punta Pacifica (the two large and outstanding hospitals here in the city).


    • kristc99 says:

      I know! I’m so happy to know if I need something, it’s possible without breaking the bank. Any insurance I could have gotten in the US cost more than our mortgage. And we won’t even talk about the difference in quality of care, and how providers can actually practice medicine here instead of drowning in paperwork and red tape and covering the backside.


      • Exactly. And here you find doctors who will actually diagnose the problem, sometimes even over the phone. That would never happen back in the States. Doctors in the States always want you to return a week or two later, constantly. If you listen to them, you’ll never stop returning, even after the problem is fixed. That’s how money is made. Here, my daughter was throwing up a lot and sick and almost violently ill. I know if we’d been back in Ohio or Illinois or Florida the doctor would have pumped her full of medicine, had us try several different remedies, and had us come back to visit again and again. Here, the doctor took one look at her, asked a few questions, and said, “It’s food coloring. Did she eat candy? Red candy?” My daughter had just eaten M&Ms the day before, and I think she’d had Hawaiian Punch. The doctor told us her body can’t handle the red food coloring. We stopped her from eating/drinking the stuff and she was immediately fine. No medicine. No expensive treatments. Out in a jiffy.

        To anyone in the medical profession from back in the States. I swear I’m not slamming you. It’s just that doctors back home are so afraid of making hasty decisions that they won’t diagnose a problem. Plus, they pay so much in malpractice insurance that they have to turn the waiting rooms into a meat market. I actually visited a doctor for awhile, down in Florida, who was an excellent doctor. He really was. His practices were a bit questionable though because he was trying to make ends meet. You could use your regular insurance and he was fine with that. However, if you chose to pay a higher (kind of like luxury payment) you could sit in a much nicer waiting room and he’d make house calls. He also put out a letter one time asking for donations because he’d never been sued for malpractice, but he needed to pay the high insurance fee. His office was excellent, unlike the typical “cram them in and rush them out” style I found all over South Florida, so even though it seemed strange, donating to the cause, many of his patients agreed, just to help him keep things the way they were. Was he a crook? I don’t know. I don’t think so. But I used the regular insurance, made my co-pays, and really appreciated the way he ran his office.


      • kristc99 says:

        I’m a nurse, home health case manager. Believe me, I know! Things are a mess in the US and feel like they are headed for a cliff. Doctors are closing the doors or doing other things just to stay afloat. By the end I was spending 50% of my time at my desk instead of with patients, and that’s with a whole office staff behind me also doing paperwork, and the whole medicare behemoth at the other end trying to deny payment for everything. How much of your medicare dollar actually goes to patient care?? Not much, believe me. Private insurance isn’t any better and will do whatever they can to not pay for anything. How can anyone practice decent medicine under these conditions? And, our idea of “practice medicine” isn’t the best either. We fix problems, usually by throwing drugs at them. We don’t promote health and prevention of problems because that takes more time. And, if something is wrong we have to do tests, cover our backsides, and write it all up to prove we did everything we could, and write it all up perfectly so payment isn’t denied. I have a huge soapbox and I could go on and on! I’m very thankful i’m not a new nurse just starting a career because I really don’t know what is in store for our health care system. I think providers go into the field with the best of intentions and good hearts and then they get beat up by the system.


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