Hospital Chiriqui

I guess it’s time for my impartial report on the Panamanian medical system or at least the care I received at Hospital Chiriqui in David. I had contacted an orthopedic surgeon a few weeks ago who was highly regarded on some expat forums online. He arranged for me to have an MRI of my shoulder in the morning then a consultation with him at 3:00 pm. We arrived a little before nine and got lost for a few minutes before a friendly nurse from another department walked us over to where we were supposed to be.

Alana was a total sweetheart

Alana, the receptionist/girl Friday got us checked in, collected the $510.00 for the MRI then escorted us through the hospital to the MRI room. I got changed into a gown then the hard nosed technician showed up and set me up on the table. I’m pretty claustrophobic but I’ve made it through a few MRIs in the past. But, I’ve got to tell you, this machine had the smallest diameter aperture yet on any MRI of my acquaintance, maybe 18” or so. The table slid in head first and my nose was practically scraping the top. I immediately told the girl I needed to come out and get psyched up for this. She slid me out but wouldn’t let me off the table. I tried getting up and she was holding me down WWE style. She told me to stay put then went looking for PJ and I hopped off.

The coffin of death

PJ, Alana and another nurse came back. We’ll get you something to ease your anxiety they said. Meanwhile, we crossed the hall for x-rays. This went quickly and easily. You go to another window out front, pay then bring the receipt back and wait. It only took about fifteen minutes. The only catch was that the x-ray tech was the same gal that was doing the MRI. She said not a word to me and gave me a bit of the old stink eye


We returned to the MRI room where Alana was patiently waiting for us. I guess we were her only responsibility for the morning. She set us up with an appointment with a dermatologist to take care of the cyst on my back for after we are done here. Kind of like our personal hospital assistant. A doctor came in and gave me a little blue pill. I figured maybe valium or something to relax just enough to get this done. Like Alice, I took the pill and we sat waiting a few minutes. I was feeling a little drowsy so figured we’d start soon. I gently fell asleep sitting in a wheel chair.

When I woke up, I was startled to find that I was still sitting in the same wheelchair only now I was sitting in the dermatologists office as she was explaining to PJ how to apply some topical remedies she was putting in a bag. Whaaaa……t!! PJ said I was asleep the entire time they shoveled my limp carcass onto the MRI machine and did the twenty minute scan. I’m not sure why they thought it a good idea to wheel a dead man over to the dermatologist afterwards but, in a way, I’m glad they did. Maybe I can sleep through all of my future appointments making healthcare visits that much more enjoyable. I’m not sure what they gave me, but it sure packed a punch. I don’t remember much about going home but I woke up in the afternoon in our bed feeling surprisingly rested and ready to return to the hospital to be seen by the orthopedic surgeon.

Dr. Tortosa speaks perfect English and did the most thorough physical exam I’ve had from an orthopedic doctor. We talked for about twenty minutes about patient history then moved to an exam room where he performed a set of tests, range of motion and that kind of stuff. We returned to his office and went over x-rays and MRI images as he explained what we were looking at using models and bones out of a box to make sure we understood. The areas of impingement and inflammation are apparent. We are going to try a shot first and explore surgical intervention later. Will probably do that in the states since I still have good insurance.

Overall I’m pretty impressed with the care I received at Hospital Chiriqui. Even the care I can’t remember. Everyone was professional but with a personal touch. Except maybe the MRI girl but she probably gets tired of wrestling recalcitrant patients into her tiny tube day after day. So the breakdown is as follows:

MRI $510

X-rays five views. $85

Dermatologist. $50

An hour and fifteen minutes with orthopedist. $50

Random bag of pills and topical meds. $37

Feeling hopeful. priceless