Medical Care in the DR

mountainannie

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Following up on a recent thread on "emergency medical care" in the DR - I just wanted to testify that the treatment that I received there over my 14 years was not only as good as but often BETTER than anything I have had in the United States.

I doubt that there is anyone on this Board who has had more experience with the medical system in the DR than I had during my 14 years there.

I worked as a journalist and traveled all over the country - primarily by bus, gua-gua and concho - sometimes with a rental car (never had an accident). I fell on my face more than 5 times - once bit through my lip - once scrapped my leg so badly that I had to go under full anesthesia to have it cleaned out

I had a very small squid move into my ear (along with her 4 grains of sand) for two weeks up in Las Terreanas) thought it was an infection and just treated it myself - OH the dangers of being able to buy one's own meds.. Finally went to the hospital there... End - have lost 70% hearing in one ear, 30% in the other.

I was scrapped up in Dajabon - treated free at the small and very clean hospital there.

Visited a friend's dying mother in Padre Bellini (public) in Santo Domingo - Would that I would be able to spend my final hours in such a beautiful place with such compassionate people.

Done an article on the maternity hospital in Santo Domingo -(ignore the headline which is chosen by the editor) http://www.ipsnews.net/2010/10/haitian-mothers-find-care-in-dominican-republic-but-future-is-bleak/

I was in Clinic Abreu perhaps 4 times? With various who knows what? The last was the wilting who knows what? No real symptoms except I just did not want to leave the bed - i.e. - no fever, vomiting, aches or pains - for which my assistant finally dragged me over to the Clinic and the doc admitted me. Turned out to be both a staph and strep infection in my entire body with an elevated blood count so high -- that another doc - seen later for a recurring bladder infection - looked at the records and said "You are lucky that you did not die."

Since I am Bipolar1, I have also experienced the psychiatric care in the DR - been inpatient both in the public psychiatric hospital in Santiago and a private psych clinic in Gazcue.

While the public hospital in Santiago was certainly rougher - in that I did not have the requisite family members to come in and help me (although the other families were very kind in giving me soap), the shower was one cold spigot, the food was inedible to me except for the oatmeal - but the PYSCH care was perfect. It is a training hospital and there was a team of docs looking out for me. Since I was a foreigner, they would only release me into the custody of a family member so my nephew fly inf from Puerto Rico to pick me up.

Later, I found the best psychiatrist that I have EVER had - Dr. Hector Perez - in Santo Domingo - whom I credit with actually bringing me to the best state of health I have ever had. I referred at least three people to him and would recommend him to anyone who needs any sort of psych treatment. He trained in New York City and his wife, who is a therapist with an MSW, graduated from Hunter College. Both, obviously are fluent in English.

The appointments with Dr. Perez lasted one full hour. (One is very lucky in the States to get more than 40 minutes with a shrink - usually 20 minutes for $90!) He gave me the medication for free. He worked with me for over two years to find the right meds and right dosages. He treated me with more loving kindness than I have ever received.

I did not have such good luck with the dentistry but Robert has a sticky with his dental journey - in which he reports excellent care.

So no matter what others may say about the conditions of the hospitals or medial care in the Dominican Republic - I was very well cared for and have nothing but praise for the quality of the doctors there.

It is certainly true that one is far more likely to get ill in tropical conditions where the quality of the water is dicey - particularly if one is traveling about into barrios and dirt roads as I was. Not to mention those mosquitos -- that Chikungunya swelling stayed intermittent with me for 2 years!Aye Mi Madre!!

Also true that it can be very frustrating to figure out HOW the system works in that - at least in the Capital - one has to sorta "self diagnose" a bit - going from one doc to another, getting blood work done on ones' own before each appointment, carrying one's own records... Very unlike the States where one's records are all on a central computer and shuttled from one doc to a specialist ...Not to mention that many docs will not make appointments but have you will be in the waiting room... waiting.. waiting.. waiting....

But my medical insurance there cost me $200 a month for the absolute Platinum level of coverage. Note that on that plan, it was required then (I was there from 2004-2016) that one be under the age of 65 to purchase it and there was only one company that offered a plan that automatically renewed after the 70th birthday with no medical exam.

All in all - for those of you who are retired there - or thinking of doing so -

I would say that you are in very good hands.
 
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Luperon

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Jun 28, 2004
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The value for a $200 a month plan is great....


...But if you get into an accident and are picked up injured on the road without ID and look Dominican or Haitian you might suffer in that public hospital for a week and then die needlessly. You will NOT get 1st world care. PERIOD. IT AINT KANSAS.
 

RockyM

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The value for a $200 a month plan is great....


...But if you get into an accident and are picked up injured on the road without ID and look Dominican or Haitian you might suffer in that public hospital for a week and then die needlessly. You will NOT get 1st world care. PERIOD. IT AINT KANSAS.
Curious what the solution is. I do not look Dominican or Haitian for sure, but I understand they may not treat you if you do not have cash in hand or proof of insurance. Wear some type of medical ID or something?

Mountainannie - thank you for the post. It is reassuring. One of THE key considerations to retiring to DR, or for anywhere.
 

Luperon

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Jun 28, 2004
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Curious what the solution is. I do not look Dominican or Haitian for sure, but I understand they may not treat you if you do not have cash in hand or proof of insurance. Wear some type of medical ID or something?

Mountainannie - thank you for the post. It is reassuring. One of THE key considerations to retiring to DR, or for anywhere.
It would have to be some type of proof of insurance that can not be stolen from your injured body.

Excellent question. Waiting for the expert answers. As recently seen it could certainly save your life.
 

Cdn_Gringo

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Apr 29, 2014
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Curious what the solution is.
I used to just carry the necessary info in my wallet as my only solution. Later I became concerned with the possibility that my wallet and I might not make it to the hospital together after a serious incident that left me incapacitated. Apart from a telephone number tattooed to my forehead, I haven't yet stumbled upon a near perfect solution that will guarantee that those who need to know who I am and my medical insurance info can easily access that data. So there's a sheet of paper in my wallet and I added a generic "medicalert" option as backup.

https://dr1.com/forums/showthread.p...l-Care-in-DR?p=1944556&viewfull=1#post1944556
 

mountainannie

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The value for a $200 a month plan is great....


...But if you get into an accident and are picked up injured on the road without ID and look Dominican or Haitian you might suffer in that public hospital for a week and then die needlessly. You will NOT get 1st world care. PERIOD. IT AINT KANSAS.
What on earth would anyone be doing on the road without ID? License of some sort? Copy of Passport? Local address? Contact numbers? At the very least something? Is there anyone that stupid? To be walking (or driving? GASP) without ID?
 

AlterEgo

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And here we go again. Annie, he’s referring to the American woman who died, most likely after being thrown from the car upon impact, before it plunged into the sea, with her ID most likely inside. The odds of this are minuscule.

And that will be the last mention about that
 

mountainannie

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Curious what the solution is. I do not look Dominican or Haitian for sure, but I understand they may not treat you if you do not have cash in hand or proof of insurance. Wear some type of medical ID or something?

Mountainannie - thank you for the post. It is reassuring. One of THE key considerations to retiring to DR, or for anywhere.
It is hard for me to imagine a situation in which one is found without ID or somehow separated from one's ID and/or wallet.. certainly there are brigands and bandits in the DR just as there are anywhere. But Dominicans are extraordinarily kind and compassionate people. Anyone who has ever had a car break down on the road will testify to how quickly another driver will come to your aid (and if not - well - sorry for you - they always stopped for me)...

As I did post on the other thread - my go to card is the American Express card which I would never travel without - since it does not have a credit limit and all the private hospitals know this. Should you actually NEED $10k worth of surgery or something, you can get it. I would also not be running about without international insurance of some sort. There are short term travel policies that are not too expensive - international plans that are much more expensive - Medicare Advantage plans that cover some sort of emergency care - but all will require that you PAY UP FRONT. Once a hospital sees the AMEX card, they know that they will get paid and not run up against your credit line.

NEXT - Find a person to hold your information on next of kin - case of emergency - who to call - in case of death. I quite startled my pen pal in Las Terrenas when I first arrived by handing her an envelope containing all that info. She gasped a bit at the responsibility but I pointed out that we had been writing to one another (through contact on this Board) for 6 months and she was partly responsible for my having decided to move. Most assuredly there is someone here on this Board who will be willing to hold that paper for you and be your Emergency Contact. PUT THEIR NAME AND NUMBER IN YOUR WALLET - or YOUR PURSE - or carry it around your neck, your waist or wherever you might put your extra pesos -- shoe? wherever...

As Luperon said - you are not in Kansas.

DO NOT CARRY YOUR PASSPORT with you - unless you are actually going to the bank, or a government office or somewhere it will be needed. When I was there, a US Passport was worth about $10k on the black market - an EU one probably more. That is a very strong temptation for brigands and thieves. Carry a photo copy. But make sure that you do have some sort of photo ID and a clear copy of your local address and local contact number.

Once you are settled - have leased an apartment or even a room in an Aparthotel (which is a very good option for the first 3-6 months) -you are KNOWN. In Las Terrenas, the shoe shine boys knew in one day that I had changed apartments from one side of town to the other. Dominicans will take care of you. Let your neighbors know if you are going on a road trip. Tell them where you are going and when you will be back - get their phone numbers.

My family knew that I was in the psych hospital in Santiago because the rental car company WALKED over to my apartment building and alerted the car rental company. The car rental rep WALKED over to my apartment building - the consierge contacted my neighbor - who called my contact in Las Terrenas - who called my family in the US.. (Plus friends in Las Terrenas drove right over to visit me which was absolutely darling of them and for which I will be eternally grateful - they picked up my dog - who always traveled with me --- wow....)

I know that lots of folks post lots of warnings here on this Board.

And there were certainly lots of very scary incidents of thefts and attacks - particularly on the old road to Las Terrenas - when I got there back in '04 - but that all seems to have died down.

I hear of MANY more shootings and murders and pedestrians being run over here in Palm Beach County than I ever did in the DR.

And it is a helluva lot more expensive.
 

Luperon

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Jun 28, 2004
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And here we go again. Annie, he’s referring to the American woman who died, most likely after being thrown from the car upon impact, before it plunged into the sea, with her ID most likely inside. The odds of this are minuscule.

And that will be the last mention about that
The odds of being robbed of everything after injured are very good... Not minuscule.

Get real
 

jd426

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Dec 12, 2009
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And here we go again. Annie, he’s referring to the American woman who died, most likely after being thrown from the car upon impact, before it plunged into the sea, with her ID most likely inside. The odds of this are minuscule.

And that will be the last mention about that
As a man, I respectfully DISAGREE.. Generally speaking your odds of having your " wallet" removed from you while injured, IMHO are around 99.9999 %

But in this specific Case ... for a FEMALE, you are probably 99% CORRECT , mainly because WOMEN do not carry WALLETS in their back Pockets, with CASH inside .

so yes , her Cartera with her ID is probably in the submerged Car ..
 

william webster

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Jan 16, 2009
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I posted earlier form a Dominican source that ANY stranger will be stripped of everything unless the locals recognize them.

Example
Somebody from Baharona crashes and is desperate on the road and is out cold in Gasping H or RSJ or Cabrera
with no relatives or friends ...
they will be robbed of everything

So I was told..........
 

cavok

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When my wife had her accident, before MOPS arrived on the scene to take her to the hospital, passersby stole her wallet with ID and money in it, her iPhone, perfume she had in her purse, and the wedding ring off her finger.

This happens all the time! Ask any Dominican. Countless stories of this happening.
 

KateP

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Since my hubby tends to go out on his bike alone to do 40-50km rides on the highway sometimes, I got him a Road Id bracelet that has my phone number, a friend's number, his name and cedula and medical insurance numbers on it. It's made of silicone with a metalic faceplate with the info. It's a snug fit so not easy to pull off and pretty tough so someone would have to work at it to get it off. Gives me a bit of peace of mind when he goes out.
 

cavok

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There are some excellent doctors here. There just was a man in Punta Cana who overdosed on Viagra, had a heart attack, was taken to a private clinic where a surgeon put in two stents and saved his life. I ad cataract surgery done in Santiago. First rate opthalmologist - excellent. Satisfied with all medical care in CMC and Bournegal.

Having said that, IMO, the OP is grossly overstating and painting an overly unrealistic rosy picture of the medical care if you happen to end up in a public hospital. I've already posted some of my own personal experiences. A dominican with insurance will never voluntarily go to a public hospital. NEVER.

I'll give one more example where things didn't go so well, in this case at CMC. A friend of mine had severe stomach pain and went there. He wasn't properly diagnosed with appendicitis and his appendix burst. Over several days, he got worse. They transferred him to Bournegal where he continued to get worse over the course of about a week. He was finally medi-vaced to Toronto where he underwent numerous operations over the course of about a year before he was better. He almost died.

Any Dominican with a lot of money, especially big-shot politcos if they have a serious condition, will fly to the US for treatment. Read into that what you will.
 

Ricardo900

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Since my hubby tends to go out on his bike alone to do 40-50km rides on the highway sometimes, I got him a Road Id bracelet that has my phone number, a friend's number, his name and cedula and medical insurance numbers on it. It's made of silicone with a metalic faceplate with the info. It's a snug fit so not easy to pull off and pretty tough so someone would have to work at it to get it off. Gives me a bit of peace of mind when he goes out.
I believe a medical bracelet is a great idea. A lot of important medical information could be readily available to the medical staff and they are easy to create and buy. Also, a way to contact next of kin is very hard if you don't have a note in your wallet or bracelet. If you are in the hospital unconscious, other than your id card, your phone will be probably locked and they will not know who to contact.
 

Peterj

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Oct 7, 2002
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It would have to be some type of proof of insurance that can not be stolen from your injured body.

Excellent question. Waiting for the expert answers. As recently seen it could certainly save your life.
A tattoo with the numero de poliza of the health insurance should do the trick...
 

cobraboy

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Jul 24, 2004
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I've been here for over 11 years now. And although in good general health have had to abvail myself of the Dominican health care system numerous times, mainly due to motorcycle mishaps or emergency-type situations.

I have had a colonoscopy, full cardiac workup, general surgery for a fractured jaw and a minor procedure for a significant "trigger" thiunb. here. They all have been excellent experiences.

Mom CB has lived with us for over 4 years, and at age 87-91 has had numerous situations that required higher levels of care, a couple of hospitalizations, blood transfusions and heart shock therapy for heartbeat regulation.

In total, I prefer the healthcare system here than in the states for numerous reasons:
  • Easy access. One can pretty much see the top specialist the same day. That is incredible.
  • Caring physicians. You are not just another piece of meat here. The docs show real concern and don't delegate you to an underling.
  • Common sense medical practice: virtually *zero* defensive medicine practiced. No waivers of liability, fear of law suits or fear of patient recourse.
  • You participate in your care to the extent you want.
  • No gatekeepers.
  • Easy access to ancillary care providers such as radiology, labs and pharmacies.
  • Vastly lower costs. I mean a tiny fraction of the same service in the states.
That said, it is up to YOU to establish your healthcare network. We have networks set up both here in Jarabacoa and in Santiago. In Santiago we access docs and services at HOMS (our preferred), Coriminas and Union. All have some positives about them.

I will also admit my professional background is laregly in healthcare, and I was married to a hospital medical director for many years, and that experience is quite helpful in establishing a solid network.

There are excellent docs in the DR, about as good as anywhere. However, there are some bad ones, too, many more than in the states. That's why you need to be cautious and seek referrals from folks who have had positive experiences.

I would be comfortable with any procedure being treated in the DR, except some aggressive cancers requiring immunotherapies (I have friends and families who had to go the states for those) and organ transplants. I maintain Medicare Part B just for those possibilities, my form of a "major medical" policy.
 

mountainannie

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When my wife had her accident, before MOPS arrived on the scene to take her to the hospital, passersby stole her wallet with ID and money in it, her iPhone, perfume she had in her purse, and the wedding ring off her finger.

This happens all the time! Ask any Dominican. Countless stories of this happening.
I suppose that you are right - whenever I actually drove myself I took my small but quite protective dog with me. She would have lain over my body. I used to be able to just curl up and sleep on the beach with her nearby with not one worry. I did have one very scary encounter -- but --

honestly - under the general heading of "medical Care'' rather than "what is going to happen to you in an emergency"

my OP stands - in that there are excellent doctors in the DR--

sure private hospitals are much better...

But - as CB eloquently put it - you can actually simply WALK into a private hospital in the DR and get yourself admitted for work up if you want - if you have the money --

It would be interesting perhaps to hear the prices..
When I was in Abreu - the overnight price for private room - private pay was about $150 US.. (no procedures or docs - but meals) WW says that they were sold and I assume that the prices have gone up.