During the interview with Michael Drouillard from www.canpanconnection.ca last weekend, which you can see here, he asked about medical care here in Panama and whether or not I thought the doctors are competent. I explained that I’m very impressed with medical care here and that not only is it extremely cheap compared with what I was used to paying just in co-pays back home, I’ve found that the doctors aren’t afraid to diagnose the problem.
Because of the fear of being sued for malpractice, and the desire to earn heaps of cash (not all doctors, but quite a few), it’s very difficult to get a doctor to diagnose a problem in the States. They’ll tell you it might possibly be this problem, but you’ll need to come back next week for a checkup, and it just goes on and on. I know there are some doctors checking out the site, and a good friend of mine here in Panama was a nurse, so I’m not saying this to insult anyone. It’s just a sad truth and I understand the reasons behind it (the malpractice concerns, not the desire for heaps of money).
But I have to say that there’s a sigh of relief that comes over me whenever I visit a doctor here. In Panama, most doctors will tell you immediately what they think the problem is and most of the time (in my experience) they’ve been correct.
I wrote recently about my wife’s trip to the doctor near our home and how the bill was only a total of $23 including the consultation and the injection they gave her to help give her immune system a jolt. And I mentioned how I saw a doctor in San Carlos for only $1. If you’ve checked out any of our Panama For Real videos, I always give a budget breakdown on the costs of living in whatever area we’re covering in the video. When I get to medical care, I usually say that the average cost of a doctor visit is about $25 (quite often it’s even less). I also mention on the budget breakdown that a trip to the specialist usually costs about $50. That’s what I’m going to be talking about in this post.
My son has eczema, so our regular doctor sent us to see a dermatologist. He referred us to Dr. Tiberio A. Rodriguez Calvo. This is the second time, from two separate doctors, that we’ve been referred to this specialist, so we knew he must be good. We’ve been thoroughly impressed by his professionalism and competency.
His office is in the building behind the McDonald’s on Via España, where Hospital San Fernando is located, on the 9th floor. Getting to the building is kind of confusing. You have to enter the parking lot right next to McDonald’s (it’s a big shopping center), take a parking ticket, and then circle around to the Centro Especializado San Fernando. Most of the parking is in the garage under the building.
To see this specialist, we only paid $50. We didn’t need to show any important paperwork. My wife just filled out a short form. If the form asks for your cedula, and you don’t have one, you just write down your passport number, or the number that’s on your immigration card. It’s as easy as that. The doctor saw my son, confirmed that it was eczema causing his problem, and wrote us a prescription for a skin cream. We don’t need to go back and see him unless the cream doesn’t help. No $50 follow up just for the heck of it.
If you’d like to contact Dr. Tiberio A. Rodriguez Calvo, you’ll see his contact info in the photo below. He speaks English and is very good at what he does. And while $50 might not seem super affordable, when you consider the average co-pay in the U.S. is probably that or more by now, it’s not too bad. Also, keep in mind that the $50 is for the consultation. If he has to do any other procedure, he’ll probably schedule you for a separate appointment, and like with any other doctor, the costs vary depending on what needs to get done. The woman seeing the doctor before us paid $100 to get some kind of skin lesion removed.
I’ve seen a couple of specialists here in Panama City, and I’ve never paid more than $50 for a consultation. I have herniated discs and degenerative disc disease in my back, and the last time I saw a specialist, I paid $50.
When we took our kids to see an orthopedic doctor, in Hospital San Fernando (right across the street from the dermatologist), we paid $40 for each of my two sons. It turned out, both of them needed special orthopedic shoes because their feet are pointing inward a little too much (pigeon-toed). We were sent to the place in the photo above (in the same building as the dermatologist) to buy their shoes. I think we paid $60 for each pair of shoes. They took my sons’ measurements and ordered the shoes.
Hopefully this article has set your mind at ease about the medical situation here in Panama. Always ask fellow expats and friends to find out which doctors they prefer. The expat community here is tighter than you might think. Everyone knows someone else and that leads to some great contacts. I’m sure that even in some of the Facebook groups you’ll find people willing to share their experiences with Panama doctors. I can honestly say that I feel completely at ease with the medical situation here.
Thanks again for reading. As always, please…
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This was originally written on 11/21/13, so some things may have changed between then and the time you’re reading this.
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