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Panama - Health Service
The health service is funded by the government and partly from a national lottery. The health service also regularly receives support from organizations such as the World Health Organisation and UNICEF.
Diseases such as yellow fever, malaria and smallpox were once rife in Panama. With a concerted effort from the US, malaria has been brought under control and diseases such as yellow fever are now virtually non-existent. In order to do this, changes had to be made in the way that people live. Poor sanitation and malnutrition were problems which had to be dealt with. By the year 2000, nearly 90% of the population had clean drinking water. Vitamins are distributed in areas where nutrition is considered to be poorest. The main health issues in the country today are heart disease, pneumonia and cancer.
Children are immunized for various diseases including diphtheria, tetanus, polio and measles and incidences of these illnesses are now at an all-time low.
The cities offer good healthcare facilities. Many of the hospitals and clinics are new and have good, modern facilities. Most of the medical staff in Panama are trained in other countries such as the US so they are aware of all the latest developments and technologies. When compared with other countries, the standard of healthcare is considered to be high. Full care is offered at the hospitals.
The biggest hospital run by the Ministry of Health is the Hospital Santo Tomas, which can be found in Panama City. The city also has a special children’s hospital which is also publicly-run. Those residents of Panama City who are on social security can make use of the Hospital de Especialidades Pediatricas. Panama City has the National Hospital, which is a private facility that is renowned for its state of the art treatment.
Hospitals in other areas include the Hospital Amador Guerrero in Colon, the Hospital de Chepo in Chepo City. The city of David has a maternity hospital and a children’s hospital as well as other medical facilities. Most rural areas will have clinics that are run by the Ministry of Health, rather than private institutions.
Private hospitals such as the Hospital Punta Pacifica have some of the best facilities. This particular hospital is affiliated to Johns Hopkins, one of the most prestigious hospitals in the US. Several hospitals in the country have connections to US institutions, which ensures that they have the best facilities and highly trained staff.
Health care facilities are made available to all people living and visiting the country. Nobody will be turned away from a hospital simply because they do not have insurance. Private health insurance is available for those who want it and there are a number of private health clinics. Obtaining private health insurance in Panama is easy and it does not cost very much money. Policies are cheaper than similar ones offered in countries such as the US.
In order to get emergency medical care you can dial 911 if you are not able to get yourself to a doctor or a hospital. There is an ambulance service that can be sent out by this department, but the number of ambulances available is limited and if you are in a busy area or a rural area with poor roads, it may be some time before an ambulance can reach you. If you prefer you can subscribe to a private ambulance service, but these do not operate in all areas of the country.
The Panamanian authorities have banned smoking in all public places. You cannot have a cigarette in any place where people gather. The number of smokers is still high, but this number is gradually decreasing as time goes on as people are discouraged from the practice.
Those who need counseling or mental health care can be treated at the Ministry of Health-run National Psychiatric Hospital in Panama City. Some private hospitals will also offer counseling services.
Ministerio de Salud (Ministry of Health)
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