It is widely known that you can receive great health care in Central America. Costa Rica and Panama have great programs for retirees. But what about the unexpected? What happens when you have an accident while traveling?
While on our recent trip to Belize, my husband Roger and his brother-in-law decided to go to the mainland and do some zip lining and cave tubing. Having done that on a previous trip, and having to get lowered down a rope in sheer terror, I wisely decided to skip that excursion and go out to a great lunch with my sister-in-law instead. From my lead in to this story, you are probably waiting for something like:
“As he flew through the trees on the line, he heard a terrific snap and was suddenly falling through the branches to the hard ground of the forest floor.”
“Floating down the river through the dark cave. Rounding a corner they came upon a stretch of rapids and jutting rocks. The rushing water throwing the tube from side to side and crashing against the rocks, tossing him into the water and into a large formation in the center of the river.”
However it was nothing so dramatic. As the day winded down from the great adventure and the boat brought the guys back to our dock on Ambergris Caye at the end of the day, my husband stepped out of the boat at the same time that it was drifting away from the dock and felt something tear inside of this calf. Being late in the evening, we got him back to the condo and got his leg up to decide what to do. It was decided that we would seek medical treatment in the morning, so I contacted our local friends to get information on where to go.
I consulted with our Ex-Pat friends that are full time residents on Ambergris Caye about the healthcare options on the island. They steered me to a nearby clinic that would be open at eight AM the following morning and we could just walk right in, or limp in as the case may be. These clinics are equipped to handle a wide range of ailments, injuries and even surgeries if required by well trained physicians. Most of whom are educated by US medical schools.
Early the next morning, after hobbling to the golf cart, I took him to the clinic in San Pedro . We checked in at the desk and waited for about ten minutes before the doctor came out and called Roger back to his office. It was about a half hour appointment with a thorough examination, medical history, vital signs etc. It was diagnosed as a bad strain and he was prescribed an injection of anti inflammatory, a muscle relaxer and pain medication. He received the injection right there at the clinic and we went across the street to the small pharmacy to pick up his prescriptions.
He also had a brief consultation about his blood pressure, as we arrived in Belize with his medication missing from our checked luggage. Dr. Gonzalez wrote him a prescription for a months supply of Ramipril to hold him over.” Note to self: put the medications in the carry on bags.”
The total cost of this adventure in Belizean Healthcare:
Initial Consultation and exam including the injection-$50.00
Pharmacy costs for Pain Medication and Muscle Relaxer-$14.00
Follow-up visit and another Injection of Anti Inflammatory-$10.00
One month supply of Blood Pressure Medication-$25.00
All totaled the experience came to $99.00, much less than the urgent care visit would have cost us in the states, even with our insurance. One ex-pat friend had shoulder surgery in Belize City at a modern hospital and paid a total of $1800.00 out of pocket. Which includes all hospital and doctor expenses. Our overall impression of the Belize medical care system was that there are well trained physicians and caring staff, clean facilities and a very low cost.