March 4, 2015
Several years ago, my wife Betsy wrote about our late night visit to the emergency room in Puerto Armuelles with our daughter Skylar and her foot infection.
That visit was a success: fast, thorough, and cheap.
Total cost: 50 cents.
Until last month, we haven’t needed to go to the hospital in Puerto Armuelles.
2 Recent Hospital Visits
Last month, February 2015, I went twice to Puerto Armuelles’ small regional hospital (Dionisio Arrocha).
1st Visit – About A Dog Bite
The first visit was for a minor dog bite .
How it Happened
Getting bit was my fault.
I absent-mindedly walked through a neighbor’s yard out near the beach and I startled her dogs. They enthusiastically protected their territory.
I wished I had done my usual of hollering out a greeting, wait to be invited in, before entering someone’s property – esp someone who has a owns 5 free-roaming dogs.
My injury was slight, really just one puncture wound of any consequence.
But my tetanus shot was well out of date, so I decided to go to the hospital to have the wound cleaned up, and to get a tetanus shot.
Medical Visit For The Bite
It was a Sunday, so there were very few patients with medical issues covered by Social Security system. Those folks visit the hospital during the work week.
I signed in at the emergency room.
I was admitted in about fifteen minutes.
- Wound was cleaned with Hydrogen Peroxide,
- Butterfly bandage was applied (stitches are not recommended for animal bites, I learned).
- Tetanus shot,
- Antibiotic shot,
- Shot of pain medication. They didn’t ask if I was in pain ( I wasn’t) they gave me the shot as a matter of course.
I would say that I was in and out of the hospital in 45 minutes to an hour.
The bite wound healed quickly, and I am fine.
I was charged 50 cents.
The same amount we were charged for our daughter’s emergency room visit 3-4 years ago.
2nd Hospital Visit – Ankle X-ray
Last week, I finally decided to go get x-rays of an ankle sprain that I suffered about eight months ago,.
It has been very slow in healing fully.
X-rays recommended by Orthopedist
I had visited an orthopedist in David the week before. He thought that there was nothing indicating a bone break, but he suggested that a comparative x-ray of both ankles could show the relative gap in a couple of small ankle bones, and might give a clue as to the extent of the ankle sprain.
The doctor explained that starting with an x-ray, one might avoid the necessity of the far more costly MRI exam.
I went to our local regional hospital in Puerto Armuelles.
The Lab Tech Is My Tenant
I was directed to the x-ray lab. I was pleased to find that the woman who was on duty at the time was my tenant, in a house that we own in San Vicente.
There was no line, so she led me immediately into the x-ray room, took X-rays of both right and left ankles. She said that it would be a couple hours before the doctor would be available to read the xray results. It was close to dinner time, so I didn’t call until the following day.
I went back to the hospital, where the doctor explained my x-ray images to me.
No breaks, just what appeared to be the bone joint separation that is considered “normal” in a sprained ankle.
X-rays Available on DVD & Online
My tenant, the x-ray tech, gave me a DVD of my X-rays, in case I wanted to take them to another doctor (the results are also available online for any doctor in Panama with access to the social security hospital web site).
When I asked the tech how much I owed, she responded that their was “no charge”.
She said that I was a great land lord (she and her family pay no rent; They are merely taking care of a property for us).
She didn’t want to charge me. I said that I really wanted to pay.
I could afford to pay the $20 or $30 that X-rays cost, and I didn’t feel comfortable taking advantage of the social security system that was designed to keep costs down for poor Panamanian medical patients. The tech, Ana, said that it was too late.
If I paid at that point, it would get her into trouble. So I got me X-rays for free.
I told her that I would make a donation to the hospital, which I intend to do.
So, these are two recent experiences at our local hospital in Puerto Armuelles.