A Personal Look at Emergency and General Healthcare in the Coronado Beach Area
by Elise van Enoo
If you are like me you may wonder what it would be like to need true emergency healthcare services in Panama. Of course we all hope to never need it, but…what if?
In July I had a very up close and personal taste of things, and I was not too happy to be on the receiving end of the healthcare “stick”,so to speak. For the first time in my life I was taken to emergency services. Bad enough to require attention, but in Panama? A disturbing proposition, so I thought.
I am originally from the states, and California, to be exact. Before I retired to Panama, I was a very specialized type of surgeon. I spent a lot of time in hospitals and other than having been in maternity as a patient, a very long time ago, I have always been on the delivery side of medicine. It was a big change to see that the tables had turned.
I was waiting for the elevator to take me to my wonderful new condo in Nueva Gorgona. We had just received the keys to our apartment and I decided I didn’t want to wait for the elevator, since it was having service difficulties. I decided to just hoof it up the stairwell. Great exercise, right? I got to level 5, tripped as I got to the landing and fell.
The good news is I fell forward, and not backward. Had it been a backwards fall I would probably have broken my neck. Instead, I fell flat on my face. I was knocked unconscious and found in that state by workers in the building who found me in a pool of blood. When I came to, I had no idea where I was or why I was there. I literally saw stars. I still remember nothing of the fall. Ironically, I used my cell phone, called my husband who said I told him I had had a terrible accident, that he should bring towels ( a testimony to my neatness) and to come quickly. When he didn’t come as fast as I apparently thought he should, I even called him again and said to hurry up. I have zero recall of either call.
I could not tell him where I was, so he started searching for me until he found me on level 5. He was on 20.
When I asked him questions that were baffling to me, but obvious questions, like where am I, he immediately assessed I needed an ambulance and took charge of getting me proper care and summoned an ambulance with the help of a number of very caring staff members of the building.
Seems like seconds later, in reality more like 15- 20 minutes, along came the ambulance and they did an assessment, strapped me to a board with head and neck restraints in case of spinal cord injury, and miraculously got me in the elevator, into the ambulance and performed a complete and appropriate assessment. We discussed options of where to take me, and by then I was back in charge of my brain. I knew I needed a radiology dept. and competent personnel to perform tests and interpret results. I asked if San Fernando medical clinic in Coronado was able to provide this. (They wanted to give me a ride to Panama City- probably pays better for them), but I didn’t want to go if it wasn’t really necessary. So, I got to visit the ER in Coronado. They couldn’t have been better anywhere. Everyone was right there to care for this fallen victim. The MD on duty, a young guy, attended to my wounds (nasty bloody facial lacerations) and radiology gently X-rayed me and performed a head scan looking for a hemorrhage on my brain. When it was confirmed that I was one very fortunate person with nothing seriously wrong, I was removed from the restraining board and they cleaned up my wounds. After 2 1/2 hours I went home.
Price for all that= $00.00. Nada, nothing, zip. Now I love a bargain, but this pushed the envelope. The beauty of healthcare insurance is that even if you have a deductible, normally, accidents are covered 100%. Kind of comforting,
In the USA I paid $400/ mo for healthcare which had a $5500 deductible. Better coverage here is costing me $188/mo with a $500 deductible. There is a whole other conversation which I will save for another time and addresses if it is even worth having healthcare insurance here at all.
Very briefly I will tell you I contracted bronchitis which developed into pneumonia while recently traveling in Central Europe. Didn’t allow it to slow me down as it developed slowly. I saw a doctor in Holland who assured me it was not at all serious, and I felt reassured. By the time I returned to Panama I was super sick. Went to a physician in Coronado, he diagnosed a pretty serious pneumonia by then, and after one week of daily antibiotic injection treatment, respiratory inhalation therapy for 2 weeks and various medications, the entire bill was $191.00 and with my 15% off with my jubilado discount came to $162.35.
Hopefully, this gives a perspective of what is available in Panama for healthcare. And it gets even better if you need a specialist. But we will save this for another time.