Well now, there is the issue! In the major cities of Cuenca, Quito and Guayaquil, there are large, well-staffed hospitals with modern, functioning equipment and supplies…for the most part. In smaller towns inland and along the coast, while there may be clinics and hospitals, their ability to deal with “life saving” emergencies is quite marginal. Routine stuff seems to be handled. Even the local pharmacies in our area frequently do not have some common medications on hand.
Recently, we hosted a family of five here for an exploratory trip. After a great lunch, and only a couple of hours before their flight departed from Manta…the matriarch fell on rough ground while carrying her small child, twisting her ankle which immediately swelled and discolored. We were in the small town of Monte Cristi at that time and drove to the larger city of Manta (from where their flight home was to begin) to find a hospital for x-rays and treatment. It was Saturday afternoon. We arrived to a locked emergency room door that was answered after knocking. Their was one doctor and one nurse working. He had to call the “on call” emergency room doctor to come in. When he arrived, he told the patient to come back Monday for an x-ray and to be “careful”. We explained that she was supposed to leave on an airplane in an hour. Finally, a call was made to the x-ray technician and he arrived, “for a fee” to take the x-ray. No broken bones. Ankle wrapped and crutches acquired. Made the plane. I clearly saw that a heart attack patient would have a real problem.
Routine care is just fine. Doctors are wonderful. Prescriptions are not required for most medications and meds are cheap. The problem is with life-saving emergency medical care if you live some distance from Cuenca, Quito or Guayaquil.
A few months ago, I had a conversation with a young physician who was trained in Cuba and the U.S. He said he was frustrated because he was unable to practice up to his abilities due to the lack of equipment in local hospitals. It was either broken or non-existent, according to him. According to him, patients were dying due to poorly equipped hospitals in small to medium-sized towns.
I have paid cash for all my medical needs. We purchased an insurance policy for Diane and the cost was far less than any similar coverage in the states. So… we are rolling the dice a bit living here on Ecuador’s coast, five or so hours drive to good emergency hospitalization.