Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Simple Little Roadside Clinic......

Once a year when we lived in Texas we'd visit our weight loss surgeon for a follow up appointment.  Prior to the appointment we'd pick up an order for lab work, and then faithfully we'd forgo our morning coffee and head to the lab bright and early with tummies empty.  Since we haven't had lab work done in over a year we thought it was time, and living near Coronado we have several choices.  One option was to visit the San Fernando Clinic, a new, modern facility geared toward expats.  The freezing cold, overly air-conditioned facility has a lab, pharmacy, specialty doctor's that can be seen by appointment along with an emergency room that no longer offers 24-hour services. But even though the clinic is geared toward gringos the staff still speaks little to no English, at least those that we've met there.

A braver, more adventurous option was to visit a Panamanian clinic where we'd pay less for the tests, so of course we took the challenge.  The tiny little cement building is painted bright yellow with the words "Multi's-Services" written on top in large, red letters. The misspelling was apparently their attempt to write in English.   Under the title in smaller writing is a list of the services they offer.  The clinic opened up at 7am and we dragged our coffee-less butts in around 8am not knowing what to expect.  Inside was a tiny room painted bright pink with eight chairs, an old desk where the receptionist sat, and a small table that held an older model television set and a boom box playing Latin music.  We presented the girl at the desk with our orders which we had translated into Spanish by my gynecologist here, from an old order I'd kept from our weight loss surgeon in Texas. She efficiently transferred the orders onto a pad of paper that served as a receipt and looked up the prices of each test.

Little Roadside Laboratory in Coronado

She delivered the order to a male lab technician in the back room and soon after he called my name.  I walked into a tiny room with an old brown, stuffed chair that sat next to a table of supplies.  The fifty-something year old gentleman was dressed in blue slacks and a plaid shirt to match, which accentuated his protruding belly.  In Spanish he asked me to have a seat and immediately grabbed my arm looking at my veins.  In English he said, "close your hand," a common practice used to bring the veins to the surface.  With a quick, tiny pinch he drew one syringe of blood which he transferred into several tubes for the various tests to be performed.  This is much easier than in the states where they attach the tubes directly to the needle area, switching tubes as many times as necessary.  I know this since I was trained to draw blood when I studied to be a medical assistant, and the changing of the tubes was a bit tricky.  After he was done he put a cotton ball over the spot where he drew the blood and bent my arm upwards until he unwrapped a tiny band aid to cover it with.  Here in Panama technicians wear no gloves which definitely saves a bunch of money, since they're not throwing a pair away after every patient.

As soon as I was done the man called "Clee-day," which is the way they pronounce Clyde's name here, as it doesn't translate well into Spanish.  Although I've never liked the name "Theresa" when they say "Teresa" with a Spanish accent it's more acceptable to my ears.  In fact since they don't understand "Terry" many times when asked my name I simply say, "it's Teresa."  We each had twelve  different tests performed for a total of $133.00 each, or $266.00 for both of us.  Being cheap as we are we thought it was a lot of money but had to look at it this way.  We could be back in the states paying $1,000 a month for our health insurance premium and pay little to nothing for the same tests, or pay out of pocket here one time instead. After Clyde paid the girl in cash he asked when we could pick up the results.  She told him the results would be ready Monday after 10am which amazed us that they could have them done that fast. And in case you're wondering why we don't let our health insurance here pay for the lab work it's because they'd want to know why we were having the tests done. Since the labs are all related to our weight loss surgeries and pre-existing conditions are not covered by our insurance here, they wouldn't cover the tests.  Along with the normal things like cholesterol, and glucose weight loss surgery patients are tested for protein levels, calcium, B-12, iron and more.

New dental clinic in Coronado with an example of prices. 
Yes it's that cheap and the dentists are real dentists with six years of dental school.
This translates to:  Braces, White Fillings, Cleanings And Extractions.
So now we know what's inside the tiny clinic that sits behind the congested bus stop, across the highway to the affluent beach community of Coronado. Since we moved here to immerse ourselves in the culture why not take advantage of the good, cheap health care that the locals use.  It's much nicer to see a doctor for $7 than to pay one $50 just because they're in a fancy building. And besides it's more fun to venture into the little hole in the wall clinics and come out with a story to tell here in this little blog....along the gringo trail.

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