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Health Care In Panama

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Your Health Care Options In Panama

An outdated notion of healthcare in Central America exists where hospital standards are only now emerging from the dark ages. Fortunately, bloodletting and leaches are as foreign to Panamanians as customer service and using car indicators.

Although the state-run hospitals are basic, the standard of health-care provided by private hospitals is some of the best in the world. Whatever your medical needs you can find the health care treatment you require in Panama. 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.

Get Affordable, High-Quality Health Care In Panama

healthcare staff best hospitals overseas Image Source: iStock/master1305

Health care in Panama can be the equal of anywhere in the world. Combined with bargain prices, medical tourism has become a booming industry here. Panama City is home to Punta Pacífica Hospital, the only hospital in Latin America affiliated with and managed by Johns Hopkins Medicine International. Other renowned hospitals can be found in the city, for example, Punta Paitilla Hospital, which is generally less expensive than Punta Pacífica.

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.

In the interior of the country, medical care is not as reliable or easily available. However, Hospital Chiriqui in Boquete is one of the best and improving rapidly. This is partly due to the high number of expats in the region. Other large towns like Coronado and Pedasí have clinics providing more than adequate care for day-to-day ailments, but for anything major, you’d need to go to Panama City.

It’s safe to say Panama has the best deal for health insurance in the hemisphere. Many doctors are trained in the U.S., can speak English, and are well-versed in all prescriptions and ailments. Private health insurance and prescription drugs are readily available and much less expensive than their U.S. equivalents. American private health insurance policies are accepted in some Panamanian hospitals.

Public vs. Private Health Care In Panama

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 2) 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.

Standard Of Health Care Practitioners

Many people who have treatment in Panama remark on the high standard of workers here. Doctor’s take time with their patients and never attempt to quickly rush to the next patient. The downside to the time they spend with each patient is appointments invariably overrun. You can expect your appointment to be at least 30 minutes later than scheduled. It is not uncommon for Doctor’s to give patients their private mobile number and make themselves available to answer further questions and concerns the patient might have.

Panama has experts in all fields of medicine, many of whom also do shifts at the public hospitals. This enables those who cannot afford to pay for healthcare access to the same standard of healthcare as the wealthy.

Emergency Health Services In Panama

Dial 911 if you are unable to make it to a hospital and an ambulance will be sent to collect you. The ambulance service is not big however and they can often take a long time to arrive. This is especially true in Panama City where the heavy traffic plays a big part in long journey times. Depending on where you live a private ambulance service may be available to you.

Alternative Therapies And Medicines

Alternative therapies have been popular in Panama for centuries. Today, herbal medicine, indigenous medicine, and traditional medicines and therapies are as prevalent in Panama as modern medicine. You’ll find many homeopaths, homeopathic pharmacies, acupuncturists, and chiropractors (most of whom are trained in the States). Massage therapists charge about US$30 for a one-hour house call.

Health Insurance In Panama

Health insurance in Panama is basically divided into two major types: Local HMOs, which provide coverage only for Panama, and international policies working through an established network of doctors, labs, and hospitals. In Panama, health insurance is sold by brokers who are not employed by any one company. The broker can explain what each company offers and the various rates of coverage.

You can expect to pay from $50-$200 for private health insurance. The insurance will pay around 70%-90% of your hospital bill and you will pay the rest. Be aware you are expected to pay the bill on immediately on completing your hospital stay.

Another option for insurance is to buy directly from your local hospital.

What You Will Need When Applying For Health Insurance

  • A copy of your passport or residency card
  • Your medical history
  • Your current address and contact details

Other Useful Information

  • Premiums will get more expensive the older you get
  • Speak with a specialist to find out exactly how what your health insurance will and will not cover you for
  • Not all the information will you need will be online and you will often need to speak with the company to get answers to your questions.

Pharmacies And Prescriptions

Most pharmacies in Panama (farmacias) are privately owned and generally only those associated with private clinics or public hospitals are open 24 hours. Many pharmacies are open late at night and many grocery store pharmacies have begun opening 24-hours. Prices for prescriptions drugs are low. Many drugs requiring a prescription in the U.S. are available over-the-counter in Panama. It is extremely helpful to know the name of your medicine in Spanish.


Make sure you are up to date with all your regular vaccinations before arriving in Panama. In addition, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid and Yellow Fever are worth vaccinating against before you visit Panama. There have been isolated outbreaks of cholera and Dengue fever. It is unlikely you will be exposed to these, especially if you don’t go off the beaten path. You have a small risk of contracting the Zika virus. If you are pregnant you will want to bear this in mind. For everyone else, the Zika virus will only cause a mild fever.

Malaria is not a problem for most of Panama. When the canal was dug a huge program was implemented to kill the malaria mosquitos. In rural areas near the borders, anti-malaria tablets are worth investing in. You should also follow standard malaria advice and wear insect repellant and long sleeves when in a malaria risk zone.

Dental Care In Panama

dental tourism lady on treatment chair Image Source: iStock/Harbucks

Dental Care in Panama is amongst the best in the world. Panama City has facilities which are comparable with anywhere in the U.S. The prices are far less than in the U.S. and the dentists take time with each appointment and are not hurrying to get people through the door. Most of the dentists throughout Panama speak English and many were trained in the U.S. Outside of Panama City you will still find excellent facilities but not quite as many flourishes. For example, a dentist in Panama might have flat screen TVs in the operating room for you to watch TV while your teeth are examined.

Dental Tourism, where people visit Panama specifically to make use of the Dental facilities is an increasingly popular industry.

General Health Tips For Panama

Mercury thermometer marking 39 degrees Celsius 100 Fahrenheit in a sunny day. iStock/Cylonphoto

Panama is a hot and humid country, especially in the lowlands, take precautions against sunstroke and heatstroke.

  • Drink lots of liquids
  • Use sunblock when outdoors even if it is cloudy
  • Carry an umbrella, if necessary, to help block sun rays
  • Carry bottled water
  • Wear bug repellent
  • Pay attention to any red flags on the beach. It could mean jellyfish or even stingrays. 

Hospitals Address And Telephone Details

Panama City District

Central Médico Paitilla – CMP

  • Address: Avenida Balboa y Calle 53, Panamá
  • Telephone: 265-8800

Clinica Hospital San Fernando

  • Address: Vía España, Panamá
  • Telephone: 305-6300

Complejo Hospitalario Metropolitano Arnulfo Arias Madrid

  • Address: Vía Simón Bolívar, Panama City
  • Telephone: 503-6600

Hospital de Especialidades Pediátricas 

  • Address: Vía Simón Bolivar, Panama City
  • Telephone: 503-6600

Hospital del Niño (English: Children’s Hospital)

  • Address: Calle 34 Este, Panamá
  • Telephone: 512-9801

Hospital Integrado San Miguel Arcángel 

  • Address: Vía Ricardo J. Alfaro Panamá
  • Telephone: 523-6906

Hospital Nacional 

  • Address: Cuba Av. & Calle 38 Este, Panama City
  • Telephone: 207-8100

Hospital Nicolás A. Solano

  • Address: Cl La Mitra La Chorrera
  • Telephone: 253-3220

Hospital Psiquiátrico Nacional (Psychiatric Institution)

  • Address: Cuba Ave. & Calle 38 Este, Panama City
  • Telephone: 207-8100

Hospital Punta Pacífica

  • Address: Punta Pacífica, Panamá
  • Telephone: 204-8000

Hospital Santa Fe 

  • Address: Av. Simón Bolívar, Panamá
  • Telephone: 360-7400

Hospital Santo Tomás 

  • Address: Calle 37 Este, Panamá
  • Telephone: 507-5830

Hospital Susana Jones

  • Address: Calle Ricardo A. Wilson, Panama City
  • Telephone: 503-1800

Instituto Oncológico Nacional

  • Address: Calle Gorgas, Panamá
  • Telephone: 512-7100


Hospital Manuel Amador Guerrero

  • Address: Calle 11, Colon
  • Telephone: 475-2311


Hospital Centro Médico Mae Lewis

  • Addess: Vía Interamericana, David, Panamá
  • Telephone: 775-4616

Hospital Chiriquí

  • Address: 3ra. Y Calle Central, Calle Central, David
  • Telephone: 774-0128

Hospital Materno Infantil José Domingo de Obaldía

  • Address: Carretera Panamericana, San Pablo Viejo 507
  • Telephone: 775-4222

Hospital Regional de Chiriquí

  • Address: Ruta 1, Carretera Panamericana, San Pablo Viejo 507
  • Telephone: 777-8400


Hospital Cecilio A. Castillero

  • Address: Av. Carmelo Spadafora, Chitré
  • Telephone: 996-4410

Hospital El Vigía

  • Address: Vía La Arena, Chitré
  • Telephone: 970-3200

Los Santos

Hospital Dr. Joaquin Franco 

  • Address: Especial Las Tablas, Los Santos
  • Telephone: 994-6233


Hospital Regional de Veraguas Dr. Luis Fábrega 

  • Address: San Antonio, Santiago
  • Telephone: 958-2300

Recommend Hospitals For Expats In Panama

Hospital Punta Pacífica

This is a private hospital with the best facilities in Panama. The hospital has a range of specialists. Popular with both expats and locals. This is one of the most expensive hospitals in Panama. The hospital has links with John Hopkins and lots of the staff here are John Hopkins trained.

Paitilla Hospital

Popular with expats as many of the Doctors speak English. The hospital has a specialist cancer treatment ward. A well-equipped and expensive hospital which offers critical care for newborns and adults.

Hospital Santa Fe

Located near to the Panama Canal, Hospital Santa Fe is one of Panama’s most popular Hospitals for medical tourism. Lots of the doctors trained in the U.S. and provide a similar standard of healthcare.

Hospital Nacional

Hospital Nacional accepts international care plans and has a nurse to patient ratio of 1 nurse for every 10 patients. The hospital has an intensive care unit and emergency room.

Pharmacies and Prescriptions

El Rey provides 24 hour service. Other supermarkets, Super 99, Arrocha, Riba Smith and Metro X also have pharmacy services during their open hours.

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