Panama offers affordable quality healthcare

Expats will tell you that you can get quality healthcare at a cost which is 50 to 75% lower than comparable health care in the United States. For many retirees and expatriates the excellent affordable health care is a decisive factor in moving to Panama.

Independant awards for quality of healthcare

Awards from the Joint Commission International (JCI*) reflect the quality of the Panamanian healthcare. Both the Clinica Hospital San Fernando in Panama Ciudad and the Pacifica Salud Hospital Punta Pacifica in Panama Ciudad have been JCI accredited since 2011. The San Fernando group also operates a well-equipped facility in Coronada, 53 miles west of the capital.

*The Joint Commission (JCI) is a United States-based nonprofit organization that accredits more than 21,000 US health care organizations and programs. The international branch accredits medical services from around the world. To obtain an accreditation of the JCI means that the hospital or clinic complies with the highest standards for safety and quality of care and is committed to continually improving patient care. It is the best accreditation a hospital can receive worldwide.

Furthermore Panama’s healthcare system also receives high marks on the “International Livings Global Retirement Index” in the “healthcare” category and Panama does appear on the World Health Organisations Healthcare rankings. A recent article in “International Living” from January 29 2018 ranked Panama among 5 countries with excellent healthcare systems.

Availability of healthcare at Coco Beach Resort

Since Panama is relatively small, you are always a maximum of one hour away from a very good hospital. At Coco Beach the nearest hospital is in Puerto Armuelles, a 15 minute ride by car from the resort. Currently a new 120 bed hospital is being build in Puerto Armuelles, another sign of the rapid development in this area. It is relatively easy to find English speaking doctors, as many doctors have enjoyed their education or training in the United States. At little over an hour by car from Coco Beach you will have the option to receive healthcare in hospitals in David, the regions capital and the second largest city in Panama.

The Hospital Dionisio Arrocha in Puerto Armuelles, at 15 minutes from Coco Beach was a relatively small hospital but is currently being expanded to 130 beds serving about 60000 people in the immediate area around Puerto Armuelles. There will be specialized areas of surgery, orthopedics, gynecology, internal medicine, obstetrics, pediatrics and neonatology. It includes operating rooms, sterilization centers, delivery rooms, emergency service, X-ray and laboratory and clinics for injuries. When we visited in June 2018, the expansion of the hospital was almost finished and we expect it to be fully operational in early 2019. The cost of the new hospital will be 64 million $.

Eventually we are planning to have a small medical emergency office at Coco Beach, to treat minor injuries and the most common inconveniences, open during normal business hours. In case of any emergency you could also opt to visit the emergency room at the hospital in Puerto Armuelles.

Availability of health care in Panama.

At only an hour from Coco Beach Resort you will have the option to find good doctors at the hospitals in David. There are four main hospitals in David:

  1. Social Security Hospital
  2. Children’s Hospital
  3. Mae Lewis Hospital
  4. Chiriquí Hospital

Both the Mae Lewis and the Chiriquí hospital have a very good reputation and have English speaking doctors.

Panama City Panama has many excellent facilities as well, including four private clinics which are considered to be among the best in the country. The list includes the Punta Pacifica Hospital, which is affiliated with the world renowned John Hopkins hospital in the USA, and is generally considered one of the technologically most advanced hospitals in Latin America. Other excellent facilities include the Centro Medico Paitilla, the Hospital Nacional and the Clinica Hospital San Fernando (JCI accredited).
The doctors and medical staff at these hospitals are similar to what you would expect to find in for instance Canada and the USA. One difference, which might be cultural, is that the time taken per patient is much longer compared to countries outside Panama.

Cost of healthcare in Panama is low

Private health care insurance for expats and foreigners with cédula (resident status) is generally much less expensive compared to the USA. In the USA a good healthcare plan will easily cost 1000 $ per month, while similar coverage in Panama can be obtained for as little as 200 $ a month with a deductable of 250$. It is possible to obtain good healthcare even if you have pre-existing conditions, we advise you to consult a local health insurance specialist to tailor your health insurance to your needs. A doctors visit sometimes costs as little as 6 $.

Why is health care in general much less expensive in Panama? The main reason is that the average salaries of locals are much lower compared to the USA or Canada. Minimum wages are as low as 525 $ per month and well educated university graduates with experience generally do not earn much above 2000 $ per month. The second reason is that the USA healthcare system is incredibly inefficient and in terms of affordability one of the worst in the world.


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