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Hospitals are probably the last thing in your mind when you decide to travel. However, if you need to replace your knee and you are facing a probable $50,000 bill, it might actually make sense to buy a plane ticket… and why not Panama?
Today, La Prensa`s financial magazine Martes Financiero, published a piece on “health tourism”. While it has been known for a while that health costs in Panama are lower than in the United States (for example), and that most doctors (specialists, surgeons) have had training in the States (many of them holding licenses to operate there as well) it seems to be only now that Panamanian hospitals are getting organized to attract this type of tourism.
The paper quoted that a knee replacement, for example, costs about $50,000 in the United States and about $12,000 in Panama. Hip replacement is about the same difference $50,000 in the States and $13,000 in Panama. Of course, you also have the cosmetic choices such as liposuction ($3,000 vs USA`s $9,000) and even “in vitro” fertilization ($3,000 vs $14,500).
Hospitals like Hospital Punta Pacífica, which has an affiliation with the John Hopkins Hospital have a department focused on foreigners due to the increasing number of visitors. Most of them coming to get cardiovascular, orthopedic and fertility treatments. I would say dentists are also in demand, a cleaning here (good one) could be from $60 to $80.
From Casco Viejo, Panama`s 300 year old colonial city, some hospitals (like Hospital Nacional or even Punta Pacifica) are reachable in less than 15 minutes by car. Being a small city, most hospitals are reachable within 40 minutes, even with traffic. Staying in Casco and scheduling your medical procedure might be one of the best ways to blend “tourism” with “health”. Everything is walking distance: bars, restaurants and theaters. No traffic rush necessary, just walk around.
However, it is important to meet with the doctors and be comfortable with the person who will be looking at your specific case. In Panama, asking for references is an easy way to get information, as it is such a small country! reputation travels fast. However, the USA Embassy published once a list of doctors that might be a great place to start. Click HERE to go to the list.