Health care is a primary concern for anyone moving overseas.
When it comes to Central America, there’s an outdated notion of healthcare being primitive. Fortunately, bloodletting and leeches are as foreign to Panamanians as customer service and using car indicators.
In Panama, while the state-run hospitals can be basic, the standard of health care provided by private hospitals is some of the best in the world. Plus, many doctors went to school and trained in Canada or the United States and, as a result, speak English.
Whatever your medical needs, you can find the health care treatment you require here. The prices are hugely competitive and the time and attention spent on you by doctors is a world away from the frantic feel of the U.S.
The one drawback to health care in Panama is the lack of options in rural areas, so if you need to be close to top-tier medical facilities, here are your best options in-country…
Chitré, Herrera Province
Chitré is the rapidly developing capital of Herrera Province. Here you’ll find various private and public clinics, and excellent public hospitals all within a few minutes’ drive from downtown.
The two best private clinics are Clínica San Juan Bautista and Clínica Dr. Venancio Villareal.
Two public hospitals offer exceptional care for free (or at a very minimal cost).
Hospital General Cecilio A. Castillero is a general hospital providing cost-free care for all patients. Hospital Gustavo Nelson Collado provides free care to residents and citizens with Panamanian Social Security. Without Social Security, the cost is US$15 per day and US$1 for a consult. It also has an ICU.
Hospital Regional de Azuero, in La Villa de Los Santos, is a public hospital and has an agreement with Johns Hopkins. It specializes in heart attacks and heart disease, and all treatment is 100% free, with or without insurance. The doctors are excellent, and some speak English.
You have several options for dentistry and orthodontics, including Clínica DentiAzuero, Clínica de Odontologia José Villalaz, and Clínica Dental Cambara Calderon.
Optometrists, physical therapists, and massage therapists are also available.
San Francisco, Panama City
San Francisco is Panama’s best option for living a quiet, residential, urban lifestyle. This is a rapidly growing middle-, upper-middle, and upper-class neighborhood with a mix of homes and high-rise apartments.
Panama’s two finest private hospitals are in the corregimiento of San Francisco.
Hospital Punta Pacífica is affiliated with Johns Hopkins Hospital in the States and offers outstanding care in the areas of urology, cardiology, orthopedics, physical therapy, gynecology and obstetrics, nephrology, endocrinology, and more.
Hospital Paitilla is another world-class medical institution with cardiology, plastic surgery, dermatology, endocrinology, speech therapy, gastroenterology, geriatrics, gynecology and obstetrics, and many other departments.
Both facilities also offer internal medicine, general surgery, and specialized surgery, like brain and heart operations. For any health concern you have, you’ll be in good hands at either Hospital Punta Pacífica or Hospital Paitilla. They boast cutting-edge technology and English-speaking doctors.
Hospital Punta Pacífica consistently ranks as one of Latin America’s best health care facilities.
There are many private clinics throughout San Francisco with general and specialty doctors. If you’re looking for a chiropractor, physical therapist, allergist, dentist, orthodontist, fertility specialist, mental health expert, or another practitioner, you won’t need to leave San Francisco to get the care you need.
If you need prescription medication, there are pharmacies throughout the neighborhood.
San Francisco offers health care for all ages and all medical needs.
Overall, the cost of medical care in Panama is cheap. Like everything, medical costs are higher in Panama City than elsewhere in the country, but, even in the capital, a doctor’s visit costs US$50 or less. In Panama City, clinics provide value (US$30 per consultation) and offer excellent, full-service care.
Panama has two health care systems—public and private. Panama guarantees health care facilities for both nationals and foreign visitors who may need them.
The public institutions are run by the Caja de Seguro Social (Social Security System) or the Ministerio de Salud (Ministry of Health). Working Panamanians receive free health care and prescription medication from hospitals and clinics within the Social Security System. Unemployed Panamanians receive health care through the Ministry of Health. Most Panamanians with extra money and foreigners usually prefer the private hospitals.
If you can afford it, the standard of healthcare you will receive going private is excellent. Waiting times are extremely short (in many cases surgery can be scheduled within a day or two) and the facilities are superb. Prices are also far less than in the U.S. with many people reporting their treatment in Panama came in at around 10% of the U.S. cost.