One Fall, a Three-Hour Hospital Visit, and a Bill of Just $320

Anyone who lives here in Panama knows that the Panamanian people are exceptionally kind, caring, and helpful…and that their healthcare system is inexpensive and efficient.

A few days ago my husband, Gary, had the misfortune to take a fall on some tile floors and land on his hip. In excruciating pain, he was hardly able to move, much less walk, and I realized that there was no way I’d be able to maneuver him into our small car alone, without terrible discomfort on his part.

So, I called our friend, Rodney Moreno, who heads an organization based in the town of Boquete which provides a 24-hour service for expats like us who have not as yet achieved fluency in Spanish, and he called an ambulance for us.

At this point, I had no idea how badly my husband was hurt or how much any of the necessary procedures would cost. Gary and I live in Panama for six months of the year (we spend the other six in Canada) so we have no health coverage here.

The ambulance arrived promptly and they took Gary to the Hospital Chiriqui in David, about 20 minutes from our home.

We were both impressed by how quickly and efficiently Gary was examined, issued pain medication, and taken for X-rays, as well as how graciously we were both treated by everyone in the hospital. Most of them spoke at least some English, which was exceedingly helpful, and those who didn’t managed, with much laughter and charades, to get their message across.

Gary was also given an on-the-spot consultation with an orthopedic specialist who confirmed that nothing was broken or dislocated, just severely bruised. After providing us with prescriptions, he sent us on our way, but not before giving us his card, complete with his private cell number, as well as hospital and office numbers. He told us to use them at any time—day or night—if we needed anything.

But the biggest surprise came when I stopped at the front desk to pay Gary’s bill. It looked like this:

Ambulance: $100

Specialist: $100

All hospital costs including examination, X-rays, and meds: $120

The total was $320 and that included our pensionado discount. And Gary was in and out, having been thoroughly checked out, in just three hours.

On the way home, we stopped at the pharmacy to get the prescribed pain meds, muscle relaxers, and sleeping pills. The total cost to us for these meds: $42…including another pensionado discount, of course.

Thankfully Gary is doing well and healing nicely…and the whole experience just reminded us of one of the many reasons we’re fortunate to reside in this country that we love.

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