Health issue - clyde

Costa del Este
Panama City, Panama 

Panama Health

Originally posted on the Panaforum

My experience with gall bladder surgery at Santo Tomas Hospital.

On Monday morning the 28th of October, 2008, my gut was so distended and I was having such excruciating pain that my novia took me to Santo Tomas Hospital. The first day there is somewhat of a fog as I was hurting so bad. It turned out that I was passing some gall stones and my pancreas was inflamed and I had to have my gall bladder removed, but they had to wait to get my pancreas stabilized first. After 5 days of constant IV feedings with antibiotics, pain killers and all those other goodies they fill you up with, they did the surgery on Saturday at 2:30. The surgery, a laparoscopy which is done without cutting the abdominal wall, but with 4 small incisions for the light, camera and tools, was done under general anesthesia and lasted a little over an hour. I was released from the hospital at noon on Monday, feeling quite well. The cost for this whole procedure was an outrageous $746. Just joking folks.

What did I get for that $746? Let me break it down.

First, the exam room and admission cost me $2.00 And then I had about every blood test imaginable, about two dozen in all during the week I was there. Add in a lot of medication and the total miscellaneous charges came to $54.00. These by the way were all itemized and were paid for up front.

There was $300 for general surgery which included the hospital room for 8 days, 2 cat scans, 3 x-rays, an ultrasound, two doctors exams per day and at least 20 IVs with all the goodies. None of the $300 was itemized so I can't break it down for you.

The cost of surgery itself, which covered the surgeon, his assistant and the anesthetist came to $392.

When it came time to pay the bill and get released I was allowed to pay $100 cash and agreed to pay $100 per month. No hassle, no promissory note, no first born child, just my word. No Toto, we're not in Kansas any more. I have no idea what that would have cost in the states, but I'm sure it would have been at least ten times as much. If someone here is privy to those costs I would appreciate hearing from you. I might add that I had used Santo Tomas about a year or so ago with a bout of bronchial pneumonia. I was there for a day of inhalation therapy, total cost $27.

Now as to the hospital itself. It's COOOOLD there, like all of Panama they really crank up the air conditioning. If you go, be sure to take a couple of blankets and a pillow, as they only provide thin sheets, if you`re visiting wear a coat. Also take some pajamas or you'll have to wear the gown with your butt showing. Things don't look as bright and shiny as we're used to in the U.S., but I have no reason to believe that they're any less sanitary. My one complaint is that they left my arms and hands a mass of bruises because of difficulties in finding veins for IVs, but then at 72 I guess that's to be expected. The doctors and nursing staff were outstanding, I felt that they really cared. Of course it may have been that I was a gringo and somewhat of a rarity. I didn't see any other gringos while I was there. The doctor who did the actual surgery examined me every day so he knew my exact condition prior to the surgery. I only met two doctors and one nurse who were actually fluent in English, but there were some who could speak passable English. I would highly suggest that anyone going there take an interpreter with you if you don't speak passable Spanish.

For those of you who can't qualify for health insurance in Panama because of pre-existing conditions or age and can't afford to use hospitals like Patialla or Pacifica, Santo Tomas is certainly your best alternative.



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