August 20, 2012

We're Having a Panama?...

Right when we were in the process of getting the house ready to put on the market we found out I was pregnant. We had already planned on having our first child abroad so when we looked into countries, the medical care was first priority. So how was it, you ask? Actually, I cannot explain enough how much the medical care system in Panama blows the US system out of the water! Not only was it cheaper, it was better. The doctors are focused on the patient and not on the insurance companies. I am in no way saying that doctors in the US are not concerned about their patients. I'm just saying that
there is a very clear distinction between when the doctor is available for you and when you need to go through his/her nurse or receptionist.

I was 4 months pregnant when we moved to Panama City. I do have to say that it was a little frustrating getting medical information online or through email. Meaning, I sent a couple of emails to hospitals and representatives and never received a response. However, I will say that Seth and I are to blame for some of that frustration. We should have just gotten a taxi and gone to the English speaking hospital, Punta Pacifica, to find information. Instead, we relied on the good 'ol American way of communicating...through email.
Once we moved to Coronado, we immediately went to the San Fernando Clinic just a mile down the road to make an appointment with an OB since at that point I was 5 months pregnant and hadn't had a check up since my first sonogram. At the same time, we made an ultrasound appointment for the next day. Talk about a world of difference from the US! The nurse spent over an hour with us. She took over 30 different pictures from different angles. Afterwards, she gave us a CD of all the pictures. All this cost us only $60, no insurance. We had 3 more ultrasounds at the clinic and each time, it was the same fantastic experience. Even though the nurse spoke no English, we were more than able to figure out what she was saying, and she would continue to keep trying to explain things to us until we understood what she was saying.
Doctora Gladys Olmos
Sorry its a little blurry. Couldn't find another one anywhere!

When we met our doctor, we knew everything was going to be good. She spoke perfect English and put us completely at ease. We had her direct cell phone and email, and she told us to call or email her for anything. Being Americans and being used to doctors wanting nothing to do with you unless they can bill the time to insurance, we only contacted her through email when it was absolutely necessary. And of course, she answered every single one of my emails immediately. Even the really dumb ones. Sweet little Taelyn decided to turn herself into a breach position in the last 6 weeks. Doctora Olmos scheduled the C-section for December 23rd, but she offered to do it on December 25th if we wanted a Christmas baby. When have you ever heard that!
San Fernando Hospital
Punta Pacifica Hospital
We decided to have Taelyn at the San Fernando Hospital in Panama City. We had the option of having her at the English speaking hospital, but our doctor informed us that we would get higher quality nurses, closer in town, and cheaper than the other hospital. I was in the hospital for 5 days, and at no point did I feel frustrated or unable to communicate with the medical care. In fact, they were just so fantastic and patient with us. Seth and I had brought along our laptop so that we could do online translation for the important stuff. The nurses loved it! When they needed to tell me something really important, and we couldn't understand what they were saying, they would just walk over to the laptop and type in what they wanted. It was fantastic. Throughout Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I had nurses coming in to thank me for choosing to have my child in Panama, and that it was an honor to have us. Talk about being blown away!

So how much did all this fantastic medical care cost? Our insurance paid for the doctor visits up to the birth, and we ended up paying about $15 a visit. In addition, our doctor did an ultrasound every visit in the last 6 weeks, and that was still the same $15 we paid for the regular doctor visit. We missed getting the birth covered on our insurance by 1 month because I was just too far along. So we had to pay for the delivery and hospital stay completely out of pocket. For the 5 night stay, delivery room costs, anesthesiologist (which everyone knows is the super expensive doctor), and my own doctor's fees...$4300. Yep, you heard me right. $4300! That same service would easily have been over $15,000 in the US no doubt about it!

Later I will tell you the process for getting paperwork...its a doozy!


  1. Sounds a lot like Mexico health care, from what I've heard :) Love the pics!

  2. Thank you for sharing this account, some really helpful info regarding finding an English-speaking doctor (quite easy here), not relying on email (I learned that one the dar way, too!) and getting personal attention (the best part about healthcare here). Hope all is well and thanks again!

  3. This sounds great! I have a question regarding the baby's last name since in Spain, it is used both maternal and paternal names. How is it in Panama?