There is a hospital that is being built right now in Pedasi. They are still waiting for some equipment to be brought here. There is a government-run hospital called Centro de Salud (health center) where you can go for any kind of emergency. They have doctors over there who are available 24 hours a day. Even expats can use the services of this hospital. They care for anybody who needs medical attention. The only difference of the Centro de Salud from other hospitals in big cities is that we only have general doctors over there so if you need care from a specialist, you will have to go to Las Tablas or Chitre which are about 40-45minutes away from Pedasi by car.
Generally, you can go to Centro de Salud for emergencies and get checked by a general doctor. The general doctor will stabilize you depending on your condition and will refer you to a specialist if special attention is needed. The general doctors can also send you to the bigger hospitals in an ambulance, depending on the situation.
It’s extremely cheap to go to the Centro de Salud. About a month ago, a surfer had an accident in the beach. He got on a big wave but he hit some rocks towards the shore. He cut his lip after hitting the rocks and he was bleeding profusely so we gave him a towel to put over his mouth and took him to Centro de Salud. The doctors gave him first aid to stabilize his condition and sent him in an ambulance to Las Tablas. The doctors in Las Tablas fixed his lip and gave him medications. He was then sent to the billing station. This guy doesn’t speak any Spanish so I went on to ask how much the bill was. The cashier said it is US $5. So I translated and told him the charge was $5. He asked to clarify if they meant $50 or $500. I told him, “No. It’s just $5.” He couldn’t believe it! According to him, in America, a doctor may charge you $300 just for checking your eyes.
That $5 already included everything; from being seen first in Centro de Salud in Pedasi, being seen by a specialist in Las Tablas, and for the stitches, which is the procedure they had to do to fix his lip. There was no charge for the ambulance ride from Pedasi to Las Tablas. So that guy was really surprised when I told him that $5 was all he had to pay, but it’s true. That’s the charge.
I explained to him that this is the benefit of going to the public hospital. The government pays about 70% of the charges and you’ll only have to pay the remaining 30%, so it becomes extremely affordable for people to go to these hospitals.
Retirees in Pedasi who need medicine prescriptions go to the Centro de Salud to see a doctor and they pay $2. Even expats also go to Centro de Salud.
There are private doctors in Pedasi such as dentists, cardiologists and the like but they charge higher. Sometimes doctors from Las Tablas drive to Pedasi to do a house call. They charge about $100 per hour. But if it is not that urgent, it is better for people to drive to Las Tablas and go to a clinic and only pay $30 for the doctor’s fees.
Chitre, which is about 45 minutes away from Pedasi, has a bigger hospital. The hospitals in Chitre provide excellent service.