More About Some of Ecuador's Healthcare
Trip Start Sep 26, 2009
63Trip End Ongoing
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Was sick with a mild cold that turned into a severe chest cold and then an infection. When I started coughing uncontrollably Fred asked our neighbor if she could write down what was wrong with me so he could show it to a pharmacist. Our landlord John then came downstairs and tried to help with the translation. Then the three of them proceeded to walk down to a nearby pharmacy while I stayed in bed. This pharmacy is owned by a doctor that John's mom has been seeing for some time. Turns out that many of the pharmacies are either owned by a doctor or have a hired doctor on hand. These pharmacies are actually mini clinics. A regular doctor's office with a regular waiting room sat behind this pharmacy's counter. So, if you are sick with a cold or flu, just show up -- no appointment necessary -- and the doctor will see you. Just be aware of siesta time.
(There is a large pharmacy chain called Fybeca, many of which remind me of the Walgreen's in the States, even selling food and appliances. I don't know if those chain pharmacy's operate in the same way. There are also some very tiny pharmacy's that may or may not have a doctor practicing on the premises.--A very tiny pharmacy down the street from us does have a doctor on hand--he told us a visit was $7.00.)
Anyway, the pharmacist there, or whatever she was, gave Fred some all natural cough syrup derived from ivy, (no sugar, alcohol or colorants) for me to take every 8 hours and a powder to take in water, every 12 hours, both tasted pretty good. She told Fred to take my temperature to check for an infection and if I did not have one, I should feel better by morning. I had no temperature and I did start feeling better. But a few days later I started to go downhill. We live, more or less, on the outskirts of Cuenca, but once in a while we will hear the ambulances go by, which got me thinking that I just might be hospital bound, as this was sure turning into a doozy of a cough.
Two weeks or so after this first began, I felt the worst. At around 6pm in the evening Fred told me to get dressed, I needed to see a doctor. Doctor Parra, the doctor I saw for my thyroid, is in a different part of town, and a little bit more expensive. So Fred took me to see the doctor in that same pharmacy where he got the all-natural cough syrup. We didn't walk, but instead took the short bus ride because I was feeling pretty lousy. There were three patients ahead of me, it was about a 15-20 minute wait. The doctor was pretty busy that evening as there was a steady stream of patients, after he saw me. In fact, he still was seeing patients at around 7:30 pm, we could see that because we had to pick up a few groceries next door.
He was a handsome doctor either in his mid to late 40's and did not speak any English, but between one of my iPhone apps and the little Spanish that I know, we did okay. He felt some pressure points in my throat and eyes which was totally new to me, along with the usual routine, took his time and did not rush. He said I had an infection, although he did not use the word for pneumonia, said that it was important for me to stay in bed for three days and not allow myself to get cold or walk around on the tile floors without shoes. Asked if I was allergic to anything, then made a phone call and asked us to wait in the waiting room until he could get someone over there who spoke English. He really wanted to make doubly sure that I understood perfectly how and when to take the medicines. Some other patients there tried to help out with the English as well. The pharmacist or technician too wanted to make certain I understood, and wrote out the times to take the meds on each of the boxes, even though the doctor wrote out the instructions on a piece of paper. While waiting I coughed like crazy, so was given a hot orange-flavored drink -- another medicine I was also sent home with -- so, 3 meds in all, an antibiotic, of course, a high dose of ibuprofen and a cough medicine. The total bill was $22.00, doctor's visit included.
We took the short bus ride back home, it was 7:30pm or so; took the meds and for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, I slept the entire night without coughing.
There was no receptionist and the doctor himself called in each patient. It wasn't a fancy office or waiting room either, by any means, but quite adequate and a good experience for me. In the States I could never get in to see my doctor when I was sick with a bad cold or flu because it always took a month or so to get an appointment! Oh yes, there is always the emergency room -- if you can afford it. So, I am a bit confused here as to who lives in a third-world country? Why health care has to be so expensive in the States, or even hard to receive at times?